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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘PETA’

The Giraffe Mezuzah

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Here’s an interesting question. In Denmark they banned Shechitah – the humanitarian method of slaughtering kosher animals for food, while simultaneouslyslaughtering two perfectly healthy, beautiful giraffes – because the giraffes were “unsuitable for breeding”.

As JewishPress.com readers probably already know, the giraffe is actually a kosher animal, and the myth that we don’t know where to cut it along the neck, is just that, a myth (anywhere is fine).

Here’s the question: Would Denmark have permitted the kosher slaughter of the giraffes which they brutally and pointlessly murdered because they were inconvenient?

I ask the question because Professor Zohar Amar of Bar Ilan University managed to recover and restore the ancient method of processing giraffe hide to turn it into kosher parchment, according to a report in Makor Rishon, a method that was lost to all Jews, except those from Yemen (those guys remember everything).

Giraffe hide is particularly thick, making it perfect for transforming it into parchment and writing Mezuzot (plural of Mezuza) and Torah scrolls.

According to the Rambam and Rabeinu Tam, the kosher animal does not even need to be slaughtered by Shechitah in order to be used as a kosher parchment, so the researchers at Bar Ilan used a giraffe from the Ramat Gan safari that had died for the purpose of their research.

Would You Eat a Kosher, Lab-Grown Cheeseburger?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

When the world’s first lab-grown burger was introduced and taste-tested on Monday, the event seemed full of promise for environmentalists, animal lovers and vegetarians.

Others who had good reason to be excited are kosher consumers.

The burger was created by harvesting stem cells from a portion of cow shoulder muscle that were multiplied in petri dishes to form tiny strips of muscle fiber. About 20,000 of the strips were needed to create the five-ounce burger, which was financed partially by Google founder Sergey Brin and unveiled by Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) hailed the event as a “first step” toward humanely producing meat products. A University of Amsterdam study shows that lab-grown meat could significantly reduce the environmental impact of beef production.

For kosher-observant Jews, the “cultured” burgers could open the door to radical dietary changes — namely, the birth of the kosher cheeseburger. That’s because meat produced through this process could be considered parve – neither meat nor dairy — according to Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division.

Thus, under traditional Jewish law, the burger could be paired with dairy products, but several key conditions would have to be met to create kosher, parve cultured beef.

The tissue samples would have to come from an animal that had been slaughtered according to kosher rules, not from a biopsy from a live animal, Genack said. The principle underlying this theory is much like the status of gelatin in Jewish law: Though it is derived from an animal, it is not meat (the OU certifies some bovine-derived gelatin as parve). Genack noted another source for viewing cultured meat as parve: a 19th century Vilna-born scholar known as the Heshek Shlomo wrote that the meat of an animal conjured up in a magical incantation could be considered parve.

It may not be too much of a stretch, then, to apply the same logic to modern genetic wizardry. But kosher chefs aren’t heating up the parve griddles just yet.

The lab-born burger, which cost $325,000 and took two years to make, is still a long way from market viability, kosher or otherwise. If mass produced, it could still cost $30 per pound, researchers said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Jeff Nathan, the executive chef at Abigael’s on Broadway, a kosher restaurant in Manhattan. “Until it’s in my hands and I can touch it, smell it and taste it, I don’t believe it.”

Even if cultured beef became commonplace, consumers still might not be interested, said Elie Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Empire Kosher, the nation’s largest kosher poultry producer. “Parve burgers made of tofu and vegetables have been on the market for years,” Rosenfeld said. “But customers are still looking for the real deal, a product that’s wholesome and genuine.” Nevertheless, Nathan sounded an enthusiastic note about the potential for parve meat.

“I’m all for experimentation and science,” he said. “Let’s see what it tastes like.”

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Unbalanced Media

 

   Thank you to Nathan Lewin for the work he is doing to support and defend AgriProcessors (“Hatchet Job on Kosher Meat Company,” front-page essay, June 9). It is unfortunate that Jewish media are all too willing to jump on the bandwagon of kosher-bashing. The sentiments of the Forward have been echoed in other Jewish media outlets, such as the Jewish Journal here in Los Angeles.
 
   It’s reasonable enough to be skeptical of claims made by those with a vested interest, but why are Jewish journalists giving a greater benefit of the doubt to PETA than to the companies that provide kosher meat and the rabbis who supervise them? The negative repercussions of such criticism in both the Jewish and non-Jewish world are self-evident.
 
   As Mr. Lewin deftly summarized, these “journalists” are guided not by Jewish law and ethics but by of the standards of Whole Foods and PETA. The laws of kashrut are not some feel-good tenets that we can mold and shape to suit our moral sensitivities, or politicize in the name of this or that cause. PETA insists that “meat is murder” and has compared factory-farming chickens to the mass murder of Jews in the Shoah. Any shechita is going to be deemed “unkosher” in PETA’s eyes.
 

   The Forward’s reporting on AgriProcessors represents neither the first nor the last criticism of a Jew by a fellow Jew. It is, however, yet another example of a troubling trend in Jewish media – a trend of increasingly wanton disregard for Torah values and ethics.

   If Jewish media outlets cannot resist the burning desire to attack, I would hope they would at least invest more energy in presenting a balanced view.
 

   Matthew Lefferman

   Los Angeles, CA
 
 

  

Rashomon, Anyone?

 

   I am an avid reader of Jewish newspapers and have a particular interest in how various publications report on the same event. One of my more amusing experiences occurred just last week as I tried to follow the latest developments in the ongoing controversy over the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s tightening of standards on conversions.
 
      In the Jerusalem Post I read that the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate had entered into an agreement to settle a controversy over the validity of RCA conversion practices. According to the Post’s account of the agreement, an account you carried in The Jewish Press, the RCA accepted monitoring by the Chief Rabbinate of who among the RCA’s member rabbis would be acceptable to the Chief Rabbinate when it comes to performing conversions. The Post actually said the RCA “caved” on this key issue.
 
      In Haaretz and The Jewish Press I read a statement from an official of the Chief Rabbinate who said that the chief rabbis would be looking into past RCA-approved conversions in order to ascertain their validity.
 
      Yet The New York Jewish Week carried a story, headlined “U.S. Rabbis Stand Up to Chief Rabbinate,” which presented to its readers, in everything from the article’s title, subtitle, and a slew of comments from RCA officials, the picture of a “commitment from the [Chief] Rabbinate to automatically recognize all past, current and future conversions approved by the RCA and the Beit Din of America (BDA).”
 
      Does the RCA have editorial input into what appears in The Jewish Week? Or is everybody else wrong and The Jewish Week right?
 

   Baruch Aurbach

   Ramat Gan, Israel
 
 

  

Rosenthal Nay

 

      I was intrigued by Rabbi Pinchas Rosenthal’s response to his critics (Letters, June 16) in which he said he was gratified by the reaction to his op-ed column (“Shortchanging Our Children By Teaching Midrashim Literally,” June 2) “since my intention has been to stimulate thought and discussion.”
 
      I was left wondering exactly whom it is he wishes to dialogue with. Surely the great Torah scholars of our day who should make these decisions have already thought this issue through. The fact that they obviously don’t agree with Rabbi Rosenthal is reason enough for me to ignore his brand of chinuch.
 

   Zalman Bloom

   New York, NY
 
 

 

Rosenthal Aye

 

   The negative comments you published last week in response to Rabbi Rosenthal’s op-ed failed to address the cogent points the rabbi made in his plea that schools stop teaching midrashim literally. One can argue about the meaning of a particular word in one specific instance or another, but it’s clear from the vast body of rabbinic literature, including the work of Rambam and other Sephardic sages often overlooked by European-oriented rabbis, that midrashim as a whole were never meant to be automatically accepted as literal truth but rather as morality tales, homilies, etc.
 

   Rabbi Mordechai Halper

   Jerusalem

 

 

  

Umbrage At One Woman’s Parade Boycott

 

Poor Attitude

 

      It’s too bad Sara Lehmann (“Why I Boycotted the Israel Day Parade,” op-ed, June 9) didn’t come to her senses in time for her to attend the Israel Day Parade.
 
      Ms. Lehmann is not alone in her feelings. Many of us are upset and feeling rather desperate about the situation today in Israel with a government that seems bent on committing national suicide. However, most of us (hopefully) realize that the existence of the State of Israel is a miracle and a gift given to us by Hashem and that it is incumbent on us to show pride in its existence. Numbers count, and the world takes note of who cares about Israel. In fact, if we Orthodox Jews would come out in far greater numbers, we might even have more of a say in Israeli politics, at least to whatever extent that’s possible from here.
 
      I couldn’t help but contrast Ms. Lehmann’s attitude with the showing at the Puerto Rican Day Parade a week after the Israel Day Parade. Spectators and marchers numbered above a million, according to all reports. If we cared enough, we could have surpassed that number at our parade.
 

   Amy Wall

   New York, NY
 

 

Salute The State, Not A Government

 

      Orthodox American Jews who abandon their Zionism because of the policies of the Israeli government are essentially handing the fate of the Holy Land to secularists without a fight. Last year, many orange-clad Jews marched proudly in the Salute to Israel Parade, showing the world where they stood with regard to Israel. Sadly, this year some of them chose to stay home.
 
      It must be easy telling Ehud Olmert how to conduct public policy from the comfort of Brooklyn. After all, Olmert could never expel Jews from the settlements of Flatbush, Midwood, and Crown Heights!
 
      When Rabbi Kahane was thrown out of the Knesset, did he abandon Zionism? When the residents of Gush Katif were expelled from their homes, did they abandon Israel? It took Menachem Begin nearly 30 years of being a minority politician before he finally was elected prime minister, but he never abandoned the Hatikva or the Israeli flag.
 
      Rather than abandon Zionism, the Orthodox community needs to endure this test of faith and continue to work in partnership with Hashem and our fellow Jews in rebuilding our historic homeland.
 

   Sergey Kadinsky

   Forest Hills, NY
 

  

Only Way To Make A Difference

 

      I made aliyah 25 years ago and I strongly disagree with Ms. Lehmann’s sentiments. Yes, thousands of Jews were forced to leave Gaza last year. But if there had been a million Jews there – even a quarter of a million – there would have been no disengagement. Simply put, if we don’t use it, we lose it. There is no way that Israel could have kept investing the military and financial resources needed to secure the safety of a few thousand Jews living in a sea of more than one million Arabs.
 
      Instead of sitting in Brooklyn and criticizing Israel and ranting to your children, Ms. Lehmann, pack your bags as thousands of us have done and move to Israel. The quality of life and kedusha here are far superior to what you have in Brooklyn. And you do make a difference. Every Jew who comes to live here makes a difference.
 

   Leslie Brand

   (Via E-Mail)

  

  

  

  

Education Article ‘A Wake-Up Call’

      Yasher koach, kol hakavod, bravo, hooray and heidad! Finally, someone has honestly and passionately put into writing some major issues affecting Jewish education today (L. Weisinger, “Education With Strings,” op-ed, May 26).

      Accountability and oversight are crucial concerns. Although most yeshivas are governed by a board, I am constantly amazed by what is allowed to take place in terms of finances, governance, and general management. Many board members run successful businesses, but somehow all their acumen departs once they enter the yeshiva. They would never allow in their own business what they tolerate in their schools. A serious cheshbon hanefesh is needed before it is too late to make needed corrections.

      One issue crying out for attention is teacher qualifications, training and continuing education. Every article and research study (as well as common sense) indicates that properly trained and certified teachers are more effective in the classroom, and that students learn more from them. Why do we require teachers of secular studies to be licensed? Is math more important than Torah? What message do we send when untrained teachers spend so much time with our children? We no longer live in a shtetl, but we accept the shtetl mentality that the so-so melamed is OK and that teenage seminary graduates are competent teachers. How much trauma has been caused by this philosophy over the decades? Teaching is a skill that requires training and supervision.

      Not every talmid chochom knows how to teach. Not every musmach has studied the Navi he is teaching. Not every Israeli is trained to teach Hebrew as a second language. If the person who cuts our hair is licensed, if the person who sells us insurance is licensed, if our plumber is licensed, how can we blithely allow an untrained individual to spend so many precious hours daily with our most valued treasures – our children? Granted, there are talented teachers who know instinctively in their kishkes how to teach. Would we, however, allow an unlicensed attorney to represent us or an unlicensed doctor to treat us?

      Jewish education is the only field of endeavor (except ditch digging) where a person can have a career without any certification from any authority that he/she is competent to teach. “Education With Strings” is a wake-up call.

      In-service training and continuing education means more than a one-shot seminar once or twice a year. In any case, a 6-hour seminar once a year provides little that a teacher can use.

      Jewish pedagogy programs are alive and well all over the world. The insulation and isolation from these modernish concepts is no longer acceptable. Sure, we have a fine track record of producing frum and educated graduates. But how many have we lost along the way? How many have been turned off by inadequate teachers? How many left the fold because it’s more important to protect an ineffective teacher than to serve the needs of a child?

      Hamatzil nefesh achas b’Yisroel. How can we not act now to bring Jewish education into the 21st century? Ms. Weisinger’s remarks are right on target. It’s time to do something about it.

Dr. Wallace Greene

President

National Board of License For Teachers and

Principals in Jewish Schools in North America

 

Hatchet Job On Kosher Meat Company

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

I was in New York on Thursday, May 25, when a banner front-page headline in that week’s Forward caught my eye from the newspaper box on the Manhattan street-corner. It shrieked: “IN IOWA MEAT PLANT, KOSHER ‘JUNGLE’ BREEDS FEAR, INJURY, SHORT PAY.”


(I have represented AgriProcessors, the kosher meat company owned by the Rubashkin family, in its battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA surreptitiously took videos of shechita at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, and posted them on its website in a campaign to discredit AgriProcessors and, in my opinion, to rouse public sentiment against kosher slaughter.)


I injected four quarters into the vending machine. The article was written by Nathaniel Popper, a Forward reporter who had no trouble finding me by telephone on March 13, when he was writing a piece headlined “USDA Slaps Kosher Slaughterhouse” that appeared in the March 17 issue of the Forward.  A year-old Department of Agriculture report that largely exonerated AgriProcessors and recounted that the AgriProcessors shechita procedure was fully known to, and approved by, the Agriculture Department inspectors had recently been made public because PETA had made a legal demand for its publication.


I had told Popper in March that notwithstanding the “spin” that PETA was putting on the few negative aspects of the report, the Agriculture Department report was overwhelmingly exculpatory. Popper did not like my response. He gave me two sentences in his story. He took advantage of the opportunity to give much larger play to his assertion that the Orthodox Union “has questions about the rotating pen used at the [AgriProcessors] plant,” although shechita munachat is the only shechita that the Israeli rabbinate accepts and allows for kosher meat imported into Israel.


The Orthodox Union’s supervising rabbi was invoked, as was the president of the Rabbinical Assembly – the Conservative national rabbinical organization – who, according to Popper, maintained that the rotating pen “violates the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei hayyim.


A colleague of Popper’s was also able to find me easily when the Forward decided in early April that it was newsworthy to write a story about PETA’s release of a video that again attacked shechita generally and AgriProcessors in particular. The film was narrated by novelist Jonathan Foer and featured a Conservative rabbi and Rabbi Irving Greenberg of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation.


The Forward reporter spent at least ten minutes on the phone trying to get me to agree that if modern science discovered a more humane method of dispatching animals than kosher slaughter, the Orthodox rabbinate would have to reexamine shechita. I didn’t give him even the inch for which he cajoled and pleaded. My reward was that our interview was not mentioned in his story. The interviewees he quoted were only those who fit his agenda.


So I probably should not have been as shocked as I was to read the Forward’s front-page attack and to note that its allegations had never been presented to me or, to my knowledge, to any AgriProcessors representative for response. But the claims made by Popper’s article – both explicitly and by implication – were extraordinarily serious.


Popper claimed that the approximately 800 employees of AgriProcessors in Postville – mainly Hispanic immigrants – were being exploited by being forced into sub-human living quarters, cheated in their paychecks, subjected to corrupt supervisors, denied medical care and safety training, and essentially imprisoned in Postville with no chance to leave or to seek better employment. No decent person – much less a Jew concerned about allegations of unethical behavior by religious Jews that might give rise to a chilul Hashem – could fail to be troubled by what Popper was reporting.


I contacted Sholom Rubashkin, manager of the Postville plant, who was quoted in the article. He insisted that the story was fundamentally false. I wondered whether we could verify AgriProcessors’ denial of the story’s allegations, thinking to myself that the story could only be effectively refuted by the employees themselves.


On Monday (which was the Memorial Day holiday), Rubashkin told me that he had received siyata di’shmaya. Acting entirely on his own, Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, a rav hamachshir in St. Paul, Minnesota, who gives hashgachas to AgriProcessor products as well as to others, had decided independently on Sunday to travel to Postville to see with his own eyes and hear with his own ears whether the condition of AgriProcessors employees in Postville was accurately described in Popper’s article.


Rabbi Zeilingold took with him Dr. Carlos Carbonera, a distinguished member of his congregation who is fluent in Spanish. Dr. Carbonera’s field is mathematics, in which he was awarded a Ph.D. by Berkeley. He went along to be able to communicate easily with Hispanic employees, but Rabbi Zeilingold asked him to be an independent investigator and not simply to serve as the rabbi’s assistant.


I spoke on Memorial Day with Rabbi Zeilingold. He told me that he was in the process of writing a detailed report of his visit to Postville, as was Dr. Carbonera. In the most vehement terms, he described the Popper article as “koolo sheker ve-chazav” – a total lie. His full report, which he sent to me by e-mail late on Monday night along with Dr. Carbonera’s, eviscerated the Forwardaccount. Rabbi Zeilingold’s report has been posted on various websites and Dr. Carbonera’s account appears on page 6 of this issue of The Jewish Press.


The principal questions Popper raised and Rabbi Zeilingold and Dr. Carbonera discussed are the following:


Do the employees live in dingy overcrowded quarters? Popper began his article by referring to the “mobile homes and cramped apartments” in which AgriProcessors’ Hispanic employees allegedly live. Later in his piece Popper described a “bare apartment” which five single Guatemalans call home. It has only “two beat-up couches with cushions that sink to the floor,” stained carpets, and a television “that sits on the box in which it came.”


Is Popper’s description accurate? If so, it is surely not typical – although that is plainly his implication. Rabbi Zeilingold saw very attractive separate homes that Hispanic workers had purchased, as well as spacious modern apartments in which many lived. The implication that AgriProcessors owns a trailer park where it deposits its Hispanic workers is demonstrably false. Rabbi Zeilingold heard from the employees he interviewed that some employees choose to live in a trailer park owned by a Postville councilman who has no association with AgriProcessors or the Rubashkin family. Some choose on their own to save money on rent to be able to send funds to Guatemala or Mexico or to build up a nest egg to buy or build their own homes.


Are the employees locked into Postville? Popper identifies one miserably unhappy woman who came to Iowa “a year ago from Guatemala.” She has stayed in Postville, says Popper, only because “It’s the only factory here. We have no choice.” No one can leave, Popper says, because there is “no publc transportation into or out of town, and few immigrant workers can secure driver’s licenses to escape the isolated community.” (Note the calculated choice of the word “escape,” designed to portray Postville as a prison.)


Rabbi Zeilingold spoke with 20 AgriProcessors employees, married and single men, wed and single mothers. All said that they were satisfied with their working conditions, that they could leave for other jobs, and that they chose not to do so. In fact, workers had come to Postville from other states, many on the recommendation of family members or friends who were AgriProcessors employees. Hispanic employees told Dr. Carbonera that they are staying at AgriProcessors because they are paid pay better at AgriProcessors and have better working arrangements than they would anywhere else in the country. And employees who wanted to leave Postville for other jobs had freely done so.


Do the employees get medical care and safety training? Popper’s Forward article implies that AgriProcessors’ workforce has absolutely no medical care. The woman who is his principal source of information has a cutting hand that is “swollen and deformed” and no doctor to treat it.


Rabbi Zeilingold heard otherwise from employees who told him that Postville has a “free clinic where they are treated well.” Had Popper asked Sholom Rubashkin, he would have learned that, as part of its benefits package, AgriProcessors pays at least 70 percent of the cost of medical insurance of those employees who choose to be insured. The rabbi interviewed one Hispanic employee who had been injured in a plant accident “and was taken to a Spanish-speaking doctor.”


That employee also told the rabbi that he had received safety training (which Popper reports as inadequate or nonexistent).


Other employees told Dr. Carbonera that, contrary to the Forward’s allegations, “the company trains them regularly and has established procedures for the safety of employees.”


Are the employees’ families happy? Rabbi Zeilingold sought out unbiased witnesses and deliberately did not rely on AgriProcessors officials. He spoke with Ron Wahls, a guidance counselor and teacher at the local elementary school. Wahls described the “care and consideration that the school has for . . . newly arrived immigrant children,” and the rabbi heard from the Hispanic employees themselves how happy their wives and children were in Postville.


One Guatemalan employee who has been living in Postville for one year with his wife and three sons (and rents the lower level of a two-family house) spoke glowingly of AgriProcessors and the Rubashkins. He came to Postville from Texas, where he had worked for a plumber. He told Rabbi Zeilingold in broken English, “This is the best place.”


Do the employees get fair wages and are they “shortchanged?” The Hispanic employees to whom Rabbi Zeilingold spoke felt that the AgriProcessors pay scale is fair and in line with the pay at other slaughterhouses. One employee had worked at a California slaughterhouse for five years and then in an Iowa slaughterhouse. He felt that AgriProcessors “has been very fair to him.” He purchased his own home and brought his family from Mexico to Postville. Rabbi Zeilingold and Dr. Carbanero asked explicitly whether any of the employees had been “shortchanged” on their paychecks, as the Forwardhad alleged. The employees responded that they always received the correct amount and were unaware that anyone had ever been “shortchanged.”


Was the union unfairly excluded? The Forward quotes an unsuccessful union organizer twice in the Popper article – once to describe AgriProcessors as “the worst” slaughterhouse and then to give his opinion that the workers “were so scared and beat down by the company” that they rejected the union. Popper does not bother to provide details. Notwithstanding a four-month union organizing effort, too few workers were interested in a union to meet the minimum required for an election. This is as resounding a loss of the popular vote as one can imagine. The candidate who didn’t even get enough signatures on a nominating petition is attacking the fairness of the election for which he failed to qualify.


Federal law gives AgriProcessors’ employees a free choice as to whether they want a union. These employees decided overwhelmingly that they wanted none.


Does management hire corrupt supervisors? None of the employees Rabbi Zeilingold interviewed had heard or even conceived of the payment of “bribes” to supervisors. The rabbi was told that two supervisors at the plant had been too dictatorial and abusive. Management fired them after hearing the workers’ complaints. The employees told Rabbi Zeilingold that “there has not been a problem” since the discharged supervisors left.


Why is it, one wonders, that the Forward reporter was unable to find anyone who would say anything more favorable about the Postville plant than the “handful of employees” who, according to Popper, made the seemingly grudging acknowledgment that “with a good supervisor, work at the plant was tolerable?”


(Did Popper really hear the word “tolerable” or was it his personal substitution for “good” or “satisfactory”? Are the content employees truly only a “handful” while the critics’ numbers are so large that they are generically described throughout his article as “the workers”?)


Could it possibly be that Popper pre-selected his interviewees to fit the thesis that he was intent on proving and that he edited their comments? Or is his defense that the Hispanic employees who live in private homes and modern apartments, who have been deservedly promoted to better paying jobs at AgriProcessors, who are healthy and satisfied with the medical care they receive, and who have encouraged relatives and friends to come join the AgriProcessors work-force went into hiding when Popper came to Postville?


If conditions are as terrible as Popper describes, how could Rabbi Zeilingold have found, in his words, “that here was a food plant in small-town America that had workers who were satisfied and felt their lives had meaning and fulfillment?”


If Popper’s account had any validity, how could the rabbi have met Hispanic workers who “recognized the Rubashkin family and the AgriProcessors establishment as their benefactors?” And how could a self-respecting rabbi have said of Popper’s Postville that it “is a good place to work in a beautiful little town, one offering opportunity, happiness, and fulfillment?”


And how could Dr. Carbonera, in his report of his visit, have said of the same plant that Popper describes as a “Kosher ‘Jungle”: “That little Iowa town of Postville is providing a haven to immigrants from Latin America and Hispanics in general”?


Indeed, Dr. Carbonera lauded “The work opportunities, the health care and educational systems, the living conditions in Postville,” which he called “magnets for immigrants.”


His conclusion was that “AgriProcessors, faithful to Torah ethics, provides an environment where its employees are treated with justice.”


Because of Popper’s article, the Forward’s editorial writers dedicated their full editorial column in the same issue to challenging AgriProcessors’ ethics and questioning the kashrut of its meat. An editorial on journalistic ethics would have been more appropriate.


Nathan Lewin is a prominent Washington attorney who has appeared before the Supreme Court in many Orthodox causes.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Readers Urged To Reach Out To Jewish Serviceman
 
I recently exchanged a few e-mails with an observant Jewish serviceman in Iraq, 1st Lt. Chaim Spilman. He is deployed for a long tour (the address below is good for at least the next three months; he might be sent elsewhere later), and I think he could use some moral support from American Jews.
 
 In addition to sending Chaim letters and packages, and e-mailing my friends and family to enlist their assistance in this endeavor, I am writing to ask if your readers might be interested in reaching out to him and if you might be able to send him a copy or two of The Jewish Press. I am certain that being able to keep up with Jewish events and issues during this difficult period in his life would really be a boost to his morale, and maybe even to that of some other Jewish personnel in his area.
 
In response to some questions I sent him about his situation, Chaim wrote me the following:
 
“I am from Monsey, NY. I went to yeshiva and grew up in a frum environment. I was active duty in the infantry and after that completed my degree and became an officer. There are other Jewish personnel deployed here but very few (especially ones taht come to services). I am currently at a new location, so I am trying to get a handle on the Jewish situation here. There is one Jewish chaplain… At the other place I was at, I held services every Friday night; we will see what happens here.
 
“Food: Obviously limited to none that I can eat in the mess hall, but firneds and family send stuff.
 
“Pesach:  I am not exactly sure yet, but I think a second rabbi is comming…”
 
The following is Chaim’s address. It is a military address, so write it on the envelope or package exactly as it appears here. Please do not write a country name – the military postal system will get it to where it needs to go. Also, please include your name and return address on the letter or package, and write your e-mail on a note inside if you’d like a faster reply from Chaim.
 
Address for letters/packages:
1LT Spilman, Chaim
MNCI-JIATF-FRE
Camp Victory South
APO AE 09342
 
If you’d like to communicate with Chaim directly, his email address is: chaim.spilman@us.army.mil.
 
Thanks to The Jewish Press and its readers for any assistance you might be able to extend to Chaim and his fellow Jewish soldiers.
 
Joseph Alexander
Efrat, Israel
 
 
 
Disservice To PETA?

Re Professor Yitzchok Levine’s March 11 op-ed article, “PETA’s Real Agenda”:

I would like to encourage readers to see for themselves the content and tone of our campaign against AgriProcessors (www.goveg.com/feat/ agriprocessors/) before coming to any conclusions about PETA or our stance on shechita. It would seem that Dr. Levine is asking of his readers that they write off our campaign simply because he does not fully support our founding mission statement. This, I think, does a disservice to all those involved and brings us no closer to a better, kinder world.

Benjamin Goldsmith
Campaign Coordinator
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, VA



‘Equal Opportunity Critic’

I think Dr. Levine should get beyond the semantic wrangling and focus on the issue of cruelty to animals. I have supported PETA’s efforts to protect animals for many years, and there is always a pattern. The abusers try to shift the focus to other abusers, or try to discredit PETA. PETA has never hidden its agenda, which is to save as many animals as it can. PETA is an equal opportunity critic of all groups, religions, industries, etc., that harm animals. There is no discrimination here.

Terri David
(Via E-Mail)



Molders Of Our Children

I read with interest Rabbi Moshe Shochet’s March 11 letter to the editor regarding my own letter that appeared the previous week (“From the Heart”, March 4). Rabbi Shochet’s attack on my character notwithstanding, I have no lack of kavod haTorah; my emunas chachomim is just as strong as his; and I take no issue with his statement that he’s “seen many roshei yeshiva at conventions, simchas and other gatherings, and they show beautiful derech eretz to their wives, talmidim and in general to all people.”

I did not impugn the derech eretz that roshei yeshiva show to others, nor did I harshly criticize them. What I did was address some very serious issues facing Klal Yisrael.

The crux of the problem is that today, in North America, we do not have gedolei roshei yeshiva like the Brisker Rav, the Chazon Ish, Rav Aharon Kotler, or Rav Elya Meir Bloch. If the gedolei roshei yeshiva of yesteryear were alive today in North America, the problems of shidduchim, abuse and agunos would not exist.

Am I saying that all the blame rests on roshei yeshiva? Of course not; parents bear a share of it, as do the bochurim themselves. Yes, there are many bochurim who are the very personification of kiddush Hashem, but there are too many others who are the very personification of chillul Hashem – before, during and after their marriages. And too many of our roshei yeshiva either minimize the problem or deny that a problem even exists.

When we as parents send our children away to yeshiva at a relatively early age, we are entrusting their spiritual care, their development of midos tovos, to the roshei yeshiva and their staffs. At that point, we parents no longer have the input we did when our children lived in our homes. We only have our children bein hazmanim; the roshei yeshiva are the ones who mold the character of our children, and all we as parents can do is pray that these roshei yeshiva imbue in them the proper torahdig hashkofos and mentschlichkeit.

It remains my opinion that many of our problems with shidduchim, abuse and agunos stem in no small measure from the failure of our roshei yeshiva to transmit to their talmidim what the roshei yeshiva of previous generations transmitted to their talmidim.

Ben M. Joseph
(Via E-Mail)



Angered By Remark

I am writing this several days after having attended the satellite screening of the Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas. I felt privileged to attend an event that was being celebrated by so many great scholars and religious authorities. But while I’d anticipated only positive and enlightening words from the many wonderful speakers, I felt sadness and, yes, even anger at a remark made by one of those individuals.

I am alluding to a story about a group of women who, after drinking some tea during their husbands’ study session, were, according to the speaker, engaged in frivolous conversation that may possibly have included complaints about their husbands. Does such a statement not denigrate the ability of these women to determine for themselves what is or what is not appropriate? These women should not be treated like dummies or scatterbrains.

It seems to me that those rabbis and scholars in attendance would not have been able to realize their goals and religious aspirations were it not for the support of the deeply committed Jewish women who keep kosher homes, observe the laws of mikvah, raise children in a Torah environment and do whatever else it takes to provide an enriching Jewish way of life.

I am aware that one rabbi at the event did acknowledge the contribution of women. Nevertheless, I still take issue with the rabbi who chose to use a portion of his speaking time to insult the intelligence of women. I sincerely believe that giving more credit to Jewish women will insure their honored place in this world.

It is becoming clear that this creeping of extremism into our lives is chipping away at our ability to experience the joy of being Jewish. The moderate voices of the religious community are being silenced by the more strident among us. The sparks emanating from an event such as the Siyum HaShas would have burned a lot brighter without this touch of negativity.

Phyllis Gross
(Via E-Mail)



‘Davening Glasses’

After going through the effort of waking up early, going to shul, and saying all the words page after page, it’s frustrating to often leave shul unchanged and uninspired. That’s where “davening glasses” come in handy.

Recently, while davening in my shul in Charleston, South Carolina, I found myself struggling to find the inspiration to connect to Hashem. It then occurred to me why I was unable to ignite my prayers: Tefilla is not service of the mind or the intellect, but service of the heart – avoda shebalev.

The heart is the organ associated with emotion. Therefore, the more numb or devoid a person is of emotion, the more stale and uninspired his prayers will be. Emotion is the fuel that launches prayer.

Contrary to popular belief, this emotional fuel that comes from our hearts need not be emotions of joy or love. Rather, a person may take his “emotional flavor of the day” and use that as a springboard for inspiration.

The people who are most connected through prayer are the heartbroken parents of a sick child, or the joyous, love-struck couple recently engaged, or the father who is struggling to support his family’s financial needs. The thread that ties these people together is that their existence is overflowing with emotion, positive or negative, and it makes its way into their prayers.

Hashem often sends us various curve balls and bumps in life as a gift to stimulate and ignite our otherwise “boring” prayers. The challenge that many of us face (myself included) is to find that inspiration on a normal run-of-the-mill day – one not filled with a family simcha or, God forbid, a tragedy.

Therefore, the next time you go to shul, be sure to bring your davening glasses so that you can see the words of the Siddur through the lenses of your own emotions. If you feel happy, angry, depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, annoyed or ecstatic, use those emotions to help you connect to Hashem. Learn to filter the words through your heart before they leave your lips.

Anyone who attempts to daven without first putting on those emotional glasses will simply be approaching prayers blindly. Alternatively, if we welcome our emotions into our prayers, we are sure to stimulate that vision in others as well.

Rabbi Ari Sytner
Brith Sholom Beth Israel Congregation
Charleston, SC

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

Poignant Essay

I found the Feb. 4 front-page essay by Nathan Lewin (“Say It Ain’t So…But It Was So”) incredibly moving.

The American Jewish community in the 1940′s lacked three essential elements that we now take for granted:

1. Political power, unity, and influence on a large scale in the national political process.

2. Communication among and to Jews, and communication by the print media to the U.S. population (TV was not yet available and radio did not convey images or the seriousness of the situation faced by Jews.)

3. Systems engineering to integrate communication and information in order to facilitate a unified plan of action supported by American Jewry to pressure the U.S. government to take action.

Yes, there was silence. I never heard anything. My parents and relatives knew nothing and spoke nothing. I learned later what happened by reading about it from a few sources when I was in high school. Even in high school and college, what happened in Europe during the war was never discussed in class. (In college I read transcripts of the Nuremberg trials.)

I recall the perception of the non-Jewish community in the 1950′s was that the Jews went without resistance to the gas chambers. We were viewed as a non-violent, pathetic people. A few church officials even suggested that Jews deserved their fate because they rejected Jesus. The shock to the world came in 1967. Perceptions changed overnight. Jews who fought! To many, it was a new phenomenon.

It is hard to reconcile today’s reality with recent history. Mr. Lewin’s essay is a poignant reminder.

Sidney Krimsky
Brookline, MA



Actions Needed From Abbas

Re the report that Israel will soon release 900 Palestinian Arab prisoners after demands were made by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas:

If Abbas were sincerely committed to peace with Israel, he would not wish to see these prisoners released. Because those involved with terrorism, directly or indirectly, could return to their illicit actions and cause harm to serious peace negotiations. In fact, Abbas should be putting more individuals in prison by capturing, arresting and convicting those involved in terrorism.

But Abbas not only demands release of these prisoners, he refuses to go after terrorists, regularly stating that “I will not use guns against my own Palestinian citizens.” Doesn’t every police force in the world use guns against their own citizens who are criminals or killers?

Until Mr. Abbas finally fulfills the Oslo promises of 11 years ago and the Road Map promises of two years ago by dismantling and disarming the terrorist groups, arresting the terrorists, closing the bomb factories and ending the incitement in the media, schools and mosques, peace will remain elusive. We should heed Winston Churchill’s words: “Those who appease the crocodile will be eaten last.”

Morton A. Klein, President
Zionist Organization of America




Yeshiva Boys And Driving

Lately there have been numerous reports of serious car accidents among yeshiva boys on their way to out-of-town simchas. Years ago, a successful takana (decree) was made by rabbonim and roshei yeshiva for boys under a certain age not to drive in the Catskills during the summer. Baruch Hashem, it worked. It is time, I believe, for roshei yeshiva and rabbonim to once again enact a takana concerning driving.

In order not to miss learning seder, many boys will drive back immediately after a wedding without having had any sleep since the previous morning. Is it any wonder that fatigue sets in? Registered bus companies require their drivers on long-distance trips to rest beforehand. Why is it that our precious children aren’t given the same consideration? Furthermore, the roads in the Northeast can be treacherous in the winter, what with black ice and snow. Often the boys have little experience in highway driving. They may overreact to a situation that an older driver with experience would handle safely. Having said all this, I propose the following:

Being that our children are priceless to us, we should forbid boys from returning from weddings the same evening. Notwithstanding the bittul Torah, the roshei yeshiva cannot allow this situation to continue. Pikuach nefesh is docheh Torah! Only if a chartered bus can be arranged would it be permitted to come back the same night. Only boys 21 years and older with experience of having driven on highways at night would be allowed to drive other boys to and from weddings. Finally, no boys should be driving in winter.

Hopefully, with these takanos in place and with the blessing of rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, there will be a dramatic decline in what we have recently been seeing.

May we only share in one another’s simchas.

Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
(Via E-Mail)



Again And Again

The front-page essay by Shlomo Z. Mostovsky (“Never Again?” Jan. 21) should have been titled “Again and Again and Again,” for the age-old lesson has yet to be learned by us.

The points Mr. Mostovsky makes are well-taken until the end. His final paragraph reads: “I believe we must develop a mechanism to respond with protests wherever and whenever anti-Semites are given a forum. We must mobilize our high-school and college students … speak out whenever we can ….”

Once again the wrong conclusion is drawn. The correct answer is: We must re-commit ourselves to Torah and mitzvos with all our abilities. This is the only thing that will save us. In the previous Holocaust, protests and boycotts were worthless – even counter-productive.

In the time of gezeiras Haman, the Jews were saved not by protests or “speaking out” – but by Mordechai’s gathering together all the children to learn Torah. The Jews rededicated themselves to a second kabbolas haTorah, not demonstrations. (See Megillah 16a).

We Jews just don’t get it. The Torah spells out for us in very precise and unambiguous language the punishments that will befall us if we fail to keep the mitzvos, as we pledged to do at Sinai. Every single one of the dire warnings came true time and again, literally and figuratively. (See Parshas Bechukosai and Ki Savo.)

It behooves us to recall the famous parable of the Netziv – Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, of blessed memory: When a man is beating a dog with a stick, what does the dog do? It tries to bite and attack the stick, not realizing it is the man doing the beating, not the stick.

Anti-Semitism, says the Netziv, is Hashem’s stick; no one can harm us without Hashem’s permission, yet we perpetually repeat the same mistake: We react to the stick instead of the One wielding it.

May Hashem put it into the hearts of all of us to return to Him, and bring an end to all our tzaros.

Mrs. E. Schonfeld
(Via E-Mail)



Conservative Judaism Adrift

The true state of the Conservative movement was revealed in an article in The New York Times on Jan. 27. The paper reported that a Conservative female rabbi was censured by the denomination’s Rabbinical Assembly for working at a Reform temple without informing that August body. The censure was based not on theological objections but because the rules which were violated “prevent synagogues from poaching one another’s rabbis.”

It did not seem to concern the Conservative clergy that this woman was performing same-sex marriages. In fact, her lawyer said that “She continues to be completely devoted to the goals and ideals of the Conservative movement.” The article went on to note that the Conservative movement’s position against gay marriage is not binding, “tacitly allowing individual rabbis some discretion.”

This should prove to all what has long been known by the Conservative movement’s critics: The movement stands for very little and is moving ever further away from authentic Jewish belief.

Robert Markowitz
Brooklyn, NY




Gaza Control Too Costly

Much has been said for and against the disengagement plan. The situation here is that it is too costly in all terms for the Israeli government to attempt to control Gaza. Leaving Gaza is just like leaving South Lebanon – the major difference being that in South Lebanon we had an obligation to the Christian Militia that worked with us for 18 years. In Gaza we are dealing with Israeli citizens who were given incentives to move there.

The plan goes wrong with its forcing residents to leave. Those people living in Gaza should be encouraged and assisted in reestablishing elsewhere in Israel if they want to. If not, they should be left with the understanding that they become responsible for living under PA rule with all the risks and/or benefits that go with their decision

Morris Amsel
Moshav Shoresh, Israel




Special Thanks

I would like to publicly thank Mr. C.B. for his patience, time, and assistance in getting my car out of its snowbound parking spot on Tuesday, February 1, on 14th Avenue in Boro Park. He had just finished getting his own car out of his spot when he noticed my van – and without hesitation he backed his car up, borrowed the shovel once again and dug my car out. And he did it with a smile. (Thanks to his passenger as well.)

With much appreciation,

Chevi Greenwald
Brooklyn, NY



Animal Rights Or Wrongs?

Critics Respond To Beverly Barton – And She’s Not Taking It Lightly

‘Rights,’ Not ‘Equality’

Beverly Barton claims that animal rights supporters believe that all species are equal (“Animals Have No Rights,” op-ed, Jan. 21) – a simplistic and patently absurd phrase designed to deceive people into rejection of animal rights philosophy. What AR people do believe is that all species deserve consideration and respect, and have rights to bodily integrity and freedom from torture, as well as the right to live out their lives in their own best interests rather than someone else’s.

Dr. Barton’s opening (mis)quote by Ingrid Newkirk “A pig is a boy is a dog is a rat” is a well-publicized but inaccurate version of the real thing: “A pig is a boy is a dog is a rat when it comes to suffering.” Omitting the final phrase changes the whole meaning of the sentence. Newkirk was trying to make the point that all these species have the physiological capability to suffer.

The so-called Center for Consumer Freedom is a front group for businesses in the restaurant, food production, fast food, tobacco and like industries, whose profits suffer as people learn about their harmful products from consumer advocacy groups. It goes after these organizations – as diverse as PETA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving – using what can only be described as inflammatory, baseless claims and roughshod tactics to achieve its aims.

For Dr. Barton’s information, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has never claimed to be a physicians’ group exclusively. Right on its website it states the group is composed of both doctors and laymen. However, all the research it conducts and papers it publishes are done by doctors, giving them validity and full status.

Dr. Barton finally advances her thesis that animals do not have rights because they are not equal to humans intellectually. But equality has never been used as a basis for awarding rights. Mentally impaired humans, as well as infants and small children, are not “equal” to adult humans and yet are still accorded rights.

The whole concept of “rights” is a relatively recent one in human history, having only been advanced since the 17th century. As a legal creation, “rights” can be applied wherever it is seen fit. For example, corporations, ships and buildings have been declared under the law to be “persons” with “rights” even though such entities are obviously unequal to humans and in fact are creations of them. If ships and buildings can have rights, I don’t see why animals can’t – at least they are alive.

Patricia Panitz
Centerville, MA



The View From PCRM

Beverly Barton offered misleading allegations about the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and our efforts to educate the public about healthful vegetarian and vegan diets.

First, contrary to Barton’s insinuations, PCRM is nonprofit research and health advocacy organization with more than 5,000 physician members, including such noted experts as Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic.

Second, scientific research strongly supports PCRM’s contention that meat-heavy diets increase the risk of health problems ranging from obesity and hypertension to heart disease. In a recent study published in the journal “Diabetes Care,” Harvard researchers found that consumption of meat significantly increased the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Vegetarian diets can be a powerful choice for wellness, which should make meatless eating habits particularly attractive to anyone determined to follow the Torah mandates to preserve our health.

(Ms.) Simon Chaitowitz
Communications Director
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Washington, D.C.



‘Anti-PETA Diatribe’

Beverly Barton makes her living experimenting on animals in laboratories, so it’s hardly surprising to read her vehement anti-PETA diatribe. If she indeed believes that animals have no rights, she should consider eating Rocky, her family collie. Or she could make a nice hat or scarf out of him to go with her fur coat.

If someone had told me 25 years ago that I would be a vegan, I would have said he or she was crazy. But after a few mailings from PETA, I decided to explore how animals are treated on factory farms and at slaughterhouses. What I learned kept me up at night, and led me to a vegan diet. This knowledge also probably saved my life. I’ve never been healthier, and my cholesterol has drop twenty-five percent.

Asked whether he turned vegetarian for his health, Yiddish author and Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer replied, “I didn’t do it for my health, but for the health of the animals.” Why is it we subject these defenseless animals to such atrocities simply for the taste of flesh?

Stewart David
Asheville, NC




Fundamental Misrepresentation?

Beverly Barton fundamentally misrepresented animal rights philosophy. Animal rights advocates do not purport that nonhuman animals are equal to humans in every way. Instead, as per Physiology 101, everyone can agree that humans and animals are alike in that we feel pain and can suffer from it. Cows should not be granted the rights to vote or drive, but only the rights relevant to their species.

By mass-producing animals and raising them for food, we disregard their interests. Dominion does not mean domination or tyranny. On modern factory-farms, kosher and non-kosher animals alike are robbed from their mothers shortly after birth, crammed into tiny spaces where they can hardly move, and have their body parts mutilated without painkillers.

Michael Croland
Pittsburgh, PA




Beverly Barton Responds:

Patricia Panitz has never read any of PETA’s literature. That group, the most prominent of the AR groups today, does purport that all species are equal, hence that quote of Newkirk’s. At the very least, AR purports that humans and other animal species are equals. That is what I maintain is contrary to Torah Judaism. As for all species (vermin too? Ants? Amebas?) deserving consideration, that is called animal welfare, something I wholeheartedly endorse, as does Torah Judaism.

I most certainly did not misquote Newkirk. She also said, in the same interview with Vogue magazine, that even if animal research were to lead to a cure for AIDS, “We’d [meaning PETA] be against it.” If she cared about the suffering of these species, why isn’t she advocating responsible pet ownership, for example, instead of insisting that pet ownership is akin to slavery? In a raid on a laboratory a few years ago, PETA “liberated” some animals post-surgery – and had to euthanize them after it was discovered that PETA had made no provision for the veterinary care of the animals.

Why doesn’t Ms. Panitz admit she’s a front for SourceWatch? She quotes them in toto without attribution. I believe that’s called plagiarism. As for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, here is what she’s writing about, as it appears on the Center for Consumer freedom’s website:

“Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) began with the admirable goal of reducing drunk-driving traffic fatalities by educating the nation about the devastation caused by drunk drivers. For the first 15 years, this strategy paid off: MADD’s public relations campaigns played a key role in changing the nation’s attitude about drunk driving, resulting in a huge drop-off in drunk-driving deaths. But as we point out in a newly released profile of MADD at ActivistCash.com, the group has adopted a new mission, which has nothing to do with drunk driving and everything to do with attacking the responsible consumption of adult beverages. [Go to] www.consumerfreedom.com/ news_detail.cfm/headline/2554 to read our profile, which exposes MADD’s deep-seated belief that any and all drinking before driving should be prohibited – even when it’s done responsibly and legally.”

So, Ms. Panitz, can we as Orthodox Jews let MADD take away the ritual use of wine? “Baseless and roughshod?” I think not.

Next, Ms. Panitz tells us that “PCRM has never claimed to be a physicians’ group exclusively….” If so, the organization’s name should not be Physicians for Responsible Medicine but something like People for Responsible Medicine. Same initials. The word “physician” is used purposely to mislead folks into thinking this is a group of MD’s. It is not. What research? A search on the National Institute of Medicine’s library database does not turn up any peer-reviewed research by PCRM. Self-published research? Non-reviewed research? Enlighten me.

Re Ms. Panitz’s concluding paragraph: Does she really think ships and buildings and other types of inanimate objects have rights? How did the ship claim its rights? I want to meet its lawyer – I could use a good one.

My point is about humans vs. animals, not humans vs. humans. As it happens, Pete Singer, the philosophy professor who is a major guru for PETA and the AR movement in general, does not believe that all humans should have equal rights. He’s published statements to the effect that mentally impaired infants be euthanized (see the URL below), and a couple of years ago, while a professor at Princeton University, he stated unequivocally – in the classroom, mind you – that bestiality is permissible (this may have led to his abrupt departure from that esteemed university). In fact, he has begun an anti-Christianity campaign (see http://www.dogchurch.org/discus/messages/5/151.html?1104778051).

Legal declarations can be overturned tomorrow; the examples Ms. Panitz cites (without references to actual case law, I note) are neither truths nor accepted norms, but legal constructs for the sake of a courtroom argument.

Ms. Simon Chaitowitz neglects to say where exactly in my article I wrote that PCRM is a for-profit group. Dr. Esselstyn was a consultant – and is not a faculty member or an attending physician for the Cleveland Clinic. A search of its website produced no Dr. Esselstyn currently on staff. In fact, it looks like he ended his relationship with the clinic in 1999.

The causes of type 2 diabetes are many, and the article cited by Ms. Chaitowitz pointed to one aspect; I could show dozens if not hundreds of articles pointing to a relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes, between leptin and type 2 diabetes, between genetics and type 2 diabetes. This is a complex disease and Ms. Chaitowitz does a public disservice by broadcasting a simplistic answer from a single study (wasn’t it funded by PCRM? – I smell a conflict of interest here).

Vegetarianism, Ms. Chaitowitz, is not the only way to preserve health; anyway, there is no non-animal source for vitamin B12. Can’t preserve health without that B12.

Stewart David notes, with apparent disapproval, that “Beverly Barton makes her living experimenting on animals in laboratories.” Yes, Mr. David, I am a biomedical researcher searching for a cure for the number-two cancer killer of men, prostate cancer. You, of course, can decide not to accept life-saving measures because they were developed through animal research. Were you vaccinated? Do you take any medications? The true vegan and AR adherent really should do neither, you know.

As to Mr. David’s other concerns: (A) Animals for kosher slaughter are not factory-farmed. (B) Kashrut is most certainly in keeping with animal welfare. © Bashevis Singer, although raised in an observant household, chose to leave the derech. He may have been a great writer, but a teacher of Jewish observance he wasn’t.

Frankly, I’m fascinated by Mr. David’s personal testimony. He changed his whole life after reading PETA’s mailings? Had he sent away for them (and was therefore open to PETA’s solicitations)? Did he investigate them? If not, why not?

Finally we come to Michael Croland. Yes, Mr. Croland, animal rights activists do purport what I have said. Read their literature sometime. They are against pet ownership (they call it slavery), and would have us live with tens of millions of feral dogs and cats instead. A truly horrifying prospect.

It would have been helpful, Mr. Croland, if you’d have provided a reference for your statement about animals “hav[ing] their body parts removed without painkillers.” Are you referring to castration? Well, why aren’t you decrying circumcision, which is done on eight-day-old human males without anesthesia? Or childbirth? Most of us women are expected to give birth without anesthesia. And it is not always by choice, either. There are types of surgeries to remove brain tumors that are done without anesthesia. Did you know that? And did you know that for the removal of plaque from their teeth, dogs are anesthetized? Will your dentist do that for you? If the answer is yes, I’m switching to your dentist!

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, January 5th, 2005

The Much Appreciated Dr. Adelson

I know it’s rather late, but I just found out that your columnist Dr. Howard L. Adelson, who was my professor at City University of New York, passed away last year.

I am an American Indian and a Christian who loves Israel. Dr. Adelson made himself available to set me straight (graciously) on Jewish culture and beliefs. He was always available to discuss issues facing Israel and Jews around the world. I really appreciated his wisdom and tried to stay in contact with him over the years. I gave him a World War I Bible from England as a “thank you” for all the time and encouragement he gave me. I now hold an M.A. in Religion (specializing on Old Testament and Native American early tradition).

Dr. Adelson was a decent human being who loved his people very much. He was a wonderful ambassador for Israel. It grieves me that he is no longer with us.

Shalom, Howard.

Robert W. Felix
Serials Coordinator
EBSCO Publishing
Ipswich, MA



The Very Embarrassing Edgar Bronfman

Edgar Bronfman’s appointment of a “proud” homosexual, Stephen Herbits, as the top administrator of the World Jewish Congress is an absolute disgrace to the people that organization is supposed to represent (“Edgar Bronfman and the Elevation of Stephen Herbits,” editorial, Dec. 31). If his hope is that this “will create a lot of conversation on the part of thinking Jews, about what we’re not doing which we should be doing,” as he stated with regard to his ridiculous push for intermarriage, he’s a little late.

Over the years, there have been many “conversations on the part of thinking” Jewish scholars and rabbis, and they all came to the same conclusion – homosexuality is condemned by the Torah in no uncertain terms. It is no different from incest or any other act considered immoral by the Torah. Neither Bronfman nor any other “thinking” Jew has the authority to change this.

That someone with Bronfman’s convictions can rise to the top of a Jewish organization, to, of all things, encourage the dissolution of Jewish laws and promote a lifestyle antithetical to Jewish teachings, is nothing short of an embarrassment. Somehow, I don’t think this is the spirit in which the Bible mandated that we be a “light onto the nations.” The nations do not need us to show them how to organize gay parades and lesbian luaus. And we have no need Jewish “leaders” who have no knowledge, affinity or respect for our culture and traditions.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY



Money Better Spent

In their column Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You, C.S. Yisraeli and L. Cohen write of their support for the Star-K’s recently launched program that will pay a $2,000 bounty to anyone who successfully arranges a shidduch for a woman in the Baltimore community over the age of 22 years and 2 months.

On the one hand, we should applaud the Star-K for taking action and trying to alleviate the shidduch crisis. Too many individuals and organizations talk about the problem of Jewish singles; it’s gratifying to see an organization that’s willing to spend a significant amount of money in a tangible way to help create more shidduchim.

I think, however, that the program is flawed for a couple of reasons:

1) The difficulty, if not impossibility, of managing it. The rules concerning eligibility and who actually is the shadchan are hard to prove and fraught with problems. And paying someone $2,000 for arranging a marriage encourages those people who may not have met through a shadchan to look for a phantom shadchan after the fact in order to collect the reward. Other means of deception are also possible, with few controls built in to identify who is actually telling the truth. I think the Star-K will find that maintaining kashrus standards is easy compared to the monitoring that will be required for this program.

2) The shadchan industry is already unregulated and replete with horror stories, making it difficult for the many honest and reliable shadchanim to do their job. Paying a shadchan an extra $2,000 for setting up a marriage will create even more unqualified shadchanim who are not sensitive to the personal needs and confidentiality requirements of singles. While we certainly need to focus on increasing the number of successful marriages, we also need to make sure that shadchanim assist singles in a caring and professional manner, without just the end goal in mind.

Perhaps a better way for the Star-K to spend its money is to create quality programs for singles at shuls and yeshivas. Admission would be free, since the costs would be covered by the Star-K. This way, thousands of young men and women of marriageable age could meet and mingle in a normal, healthy, and halachically acceptable environment. I strongly believe that these programs, if run properly and encouraged by our rabbis, would create many more successful shidduchim than the Star-K’s current program – without any of the associated problems.

Michael Feldstein
Stamford, CT



Literal Or Allegorical?

The interesting article “Chana and Her Seven Sons” (Dec. 10), concerning the reputed burial place of the famous woman whose seven children died rather than bow to an idol, contains assertions that are open to question.

Writer Chana Katz states: “According to Tractate Gittin, Antiochus asked each son to bow down to avoda zara (idol worship).” Actually, the sourced Gemara (Gittin 57b) makes no mention of Antiochus; rather, it mentions a caesar, and the context clearly ascribes the story to the era of the destruction of the Second Temple. Other sources that record the story also place it during the first century of the Common Era, 200 years after the Chanukah miracle occurred. In Eliyahu Rabbah, the villain of the piece is the Emperor Hadrian.

It is true that in the Book of the Maccabees II the wicked king is Antiochus (although the story there has the family refusing to eat swine rather than refusing to bow to an idol). Nonetheless, the more authoritative Talmudic version calls into question the suggestion by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh that “perhaps the story of Chana and her sons who refused to bow to Antiochus is the very basis” of Chanukah. (In any event, his suggestion is quite radical; the reasons for Chanukah are quite clearly stated in Jewish law.)

Moreover, the Talmud does not record the name of the mother. The Midrash Eichah says that her name was Miriam, daughter of Tanchum. The appellation “Chana” was attached to her only in medieval times, an apparent reference to Chana, mother of the Prophet Shmuel, who is the paradigm of a woman longing for children. (See Encyclopedia Judaica under the entry “Hannah and Her Seven Sons,” which notes the association with the verse in I Samuel 2:5: “the barren woman has borne seven, and she who has many sons has become wretched.”

As with many stories cited by our Sages, it is hard to know where literal truth ends and allegory begins. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this tragic story, rather than being a literal retelling, is meant to invoke the countless times Jews have sacrificed themselves for the sake of God.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway, NY



Our Uncle Tom

In his New York Times column of Dec. 16, Thomas L. Friedman lamented the Bush administration’s rejection of the third Arab Human Development Report, which contained a critique by Arab economists, social scientists and other scholars of Arab governments on the lagging state of governance in the Arab world. Mr. Friedman was so disturbed by the administration’s decision that he exclaimed, “It makes you weep.”

It makes him weep?! What makes me weep is the carnage being perpetrated by suicide bombers in the name of Islam. It makes me weep that the primary reason Arab governments criticize the United States is because the U.S. supports the only democracy in the Middle East.

Mr. Friedman lauds the report for “tackling the supersensitive issue of how Islam and its current spiritual leaders may be holding back modern education.”

Modern education? Is this the problem? What about the fact that they indoctrinate in their children hatred of Jews as well as America because of its support of Israel? It makes me weep that they refuse to change an educational system that produces hate-filled suicide bombers.

Such documents are not only meaningless but counter-productive. There is no reforming an Arab government without eliminating the radical and irrational hatred being taught at every age and every level to Islamic students. Is a more modern form of government the goal even if it continues to preach virulent hatred? I think not. And the Bush administration knows that, thank God.

It makes me weep, though, that Mr. Friedman doesn’t seem to realize it.

Rabbi Harry Maryles
Chicago, IL
 

PETA’s Position

We at PETA agree with Rabbi Menachem Genack that shechita, done correctly, is less cruel than other slaughter methods in the U.S. (“Setting the Record Straight on Kosher Slaughter,” op-ed, Dec. 31). This is precisely our point in stating that what was happening at AgriProcessors, for years, is not properly conducted shechita, as is clear to anyone who reviews our investigation documents and video.

To echo the words of Rabbi Barry Schwartz of the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Task Force on Kashrut, “The suffering of these animals during slaughter is sickening. Death is neither quick nor merciful. If this is kosher, then we have a big problem.”

Over the seven weeks that our investigator worked at AgriProcessors, one-quarter of the animals in our sample were still conscious after they were dumped from the restraint, roughly one minute after their throats were cut. Extrapolated to the 18,000 animals killed during this time, any statistician will tell you that thousands of AgriProcessors’ animals during this brief period suffered the same fate.

AgriProcessors has not been able to find one scientist, animal welfare expert, or veterinarian willing to defend the shoddy slaughter practices we documented. To reiterate: One hundred percent of animal welfare scientists, veterinarians, and animal welfare experts who have reviewed this investigation have condemned AgriProcessors for cruelty.

As just two examples: Dr. Temple Grandin, consultant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Meat Institute, stated, “[I]t was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen.” Dr. Lester Friedlander, a former USDA kosher slaughter inspector, wrote, “The footage captured by PETA represents the most egregious violation of the USDA Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) I have ever witnessed.”

A growing number of rabbis are also weighing in, including the president of the Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, who wrote, “When a company purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei hayyim, causing pain to one of God’s living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to God.”

Yes, AgriProcessors has made some improvements. We are encouraged by these changes. However, they only prove our claim: AgriProcessors can do shechita correctly, but chose not to.

In order to ensure that AgriProcessors and other OU and KAJ certified plants are operating at the laudable levels of commitment of these organization, comprehensive and publicly available guidelines should be implemented and enforced. Working with scientists, rather than against them, seems the wisest course for any person or organization dedicated to ensuring the kindest treatment possible.

We encourage readers to learn more about our investigation, watch the video, and read our full replies to AgriProcessors and the OU at our website, www.GoVeg.com. For information on Judaism and vegetarianism, please visit the website run by the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, at www.JewishVeg.com.

Benjamin Goldsmith
Campaign Coordinator
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, VA

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

Bush And Knishes

I’m new to The Jewish Press, or maybe I should say The Jewish Press is new to me. I live in the Miami area, and only recently began reading your paper as a result of my newly kindled interest in Judaism. There’s so much to read each week, and I particularly appreciate the Torah columns and your great op-eds and editorials.

Speaking of editorials, I loved your editorials endorsing President Bush, although I knew – as did you – that outside of the Orthodox community, most American Jews would sooner vote for the worst imaginable Democrat than for a Republican. In fact, my next door neighbors, transplanted New Yorkers in their eighties, calmly informed me that they’d have voted for Al Sharpton over Bush, because, in their words, “the Republicans want to take away our Social Security.”

I was glad to read that younger Jews were more likely to vote for Bush than their elders, so at least there’s hope that the next generation won’t be the mindless, robotic Democrats their parents and grandparents prove themselves to be election after election.

In closing, I’ll share with you an observation a friend of mine made about these Florida senior citizens all around us who still think Roosevelt was the greatest thing that ever happened to Jews and who believe that the essence of being a good Jew is to support any liberal Democrat: “Bush could convert to Judaism and then complain about his colonoscopy over diet soda and knishes, and still those old Jews wouldn’t vote for him.”

Sam Jacobson
(Via E-Mail)



Worthy Role Model

Re Boruch Selevan’s Dec. 24 letter to the editor criticizing frum Jews who follow the career of a rising young superstar boxer who happens to be frum himself:

I am a frum Jew who’s been involved in kiruv for over twenty years and can claim to have brought – with the help of dedicated rabbanim and community members – a very large number of students to some level of Yiddishkeit. I say this not as a boast but to qualify my opinion.

I have also boxed, and I have a black belt in Jiu-jitsu. In my opinion, it is about time that Jewish youth have a strong frum role model in the media. Our Torah is replete with heroes, from Avraham to the achronim, who fought and won decisive battles for Torah and Hashem. Contrary to some opinions, they did not just set down the sefer and pick up the sword. It takes years of practice, physical conditioning and some measure of pain to produce a fighter.

Today we encounter the phenomenon of a Jewish community losing its hold on its youth to non-Jewish gang-style rappers, tough-guy Hollywood actors and left-wing “freedom fighters.” (If you think this is a phenomenon exclusive to the non-frum world, you just don’t know your kids.) And why not? Youth admires strength and courage over all things. How many kids dress up as soldiers, cowboys and swordsmen on Purim? How many as gedolim?

It is when I understood that Jewish youth need a constructive character-building environment, supported by the Torah and the empowerment that physical skill and strength provide, that I started to succeed in kiruv.

Tamir Elias
Brooklyn, NY



Admirable Young Boxer

Given all the world’s ills, I find it appalling that Mr Selevan has nothing else to worry about besides what an admirable young boxer chooses to do with his life. I happen to know the young man in question personally, and the fact that he wears his frumkeit on his sleeves is commendable and should be given at least the moral support of the frum community at large.

I am not writing to debate whether boxing is the frum thing to do. I simply wish to salute a man who is “mekadesh shem shomayim befarhesia.”

Mordy Chaimowitz
Monsey, NY



Those Pro-PETA Letters (I)

I was shocked and horrified at the number of recent letters to the editor agreeing with the ludicrous claims put forth by PETA. Readers who claimed that PETA is correct according to our Holy Law neglected to indicate how exactly the practices at AgriProcessors contradict the Shulchan Aruch.

The fact is that the cutting of the arteries in the neck during shechita causes an immediate loss of blood pressure in the brain. This means, in laymen’s terms, that the cow no longer has enough energy in its brain to power its nerve cells. As a result, the cow doesn’t feel a thing. All twitching by the animal is due to muscle spasms – a reflex action not connected to the brain, and therefore the nerves, at all.

I congratulate Nathan Lewin, reader Amy Wall, and The Jewish Press on their excellent points and strong stances on this issue. I am dan lekaf zechus all those readers who did not respond; I assume they agree with the position of The Jewish Press on this subject.

Yitzchak Brand
Brooklyn, NY



Those Pro-PETA Letters (II)

The Gemara teaches that inappropriate foodstuffs have a dulling effect on the mind. I can only surmise that the respondents to the anti-PETA editorials who, with the exception of Amy Wall, sided with the radical organization must have ingested halchically forbidden materials.

One can state categorically and unequivocally that vegetarianism is not, never was, and never will be a higher form of Judaism. Certainly it is any Jew’s prerogative to choose the herbivorous life – that is, until the Beis Hamikdosh is rebuilt, whereupon all must partake of at least the korban Pesach – but to aver that God considers us sinners for eating properly slaughtered animals is an outright lie. From the advent of our nation, when kosher meat was available it was unstintingly consumed.

And what, pray tell, do Orthodox vegetarians suggest we’ll do when the Third Temple is rebuilt (speedily and in our days)? Right, we’ll shecht tomatoes (beef tomatoes to be sure) and sprinkle the juice on the mizbeach.

As to the insinuation raised by some of the writers that yes, PETA represents a lunatic fringe but Hashem made them a tool to highlight religious and ethical infractions at the plant: I can accept this possibility, but as Ms. Wall deftly noted, we must turn to our accepted kashrus organizations to rectify the matter (I am in no position to determine whether anything is in fact amiss), and not play into the hands of a group that would not only bar all consumption and use of four-legged creatures, but fish and fowl as well.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY




Rav Teitz’s Approach To Torah

Since last Wednesday friends have been telling me how much they enjoyed Dr. Yitzchok Levine’s memories of my father, HaRav Mordechai Pinchas Teitz, published on page one of The Jewish Press (“Master Builder: Rav Teitz and the Elizabeth Kehilla,” Dec. 24).

Dr. Levine is one of a group of scientists and mathematicians that my father welcomed to Elizabeth, New Jersey. He saw their enjoyment and accomplishment in their fields combined with their love of Torah as a promising sign for the Jewish future.

I was struck by one passage in Dr. Levine’s engaging account. “My eldest son,” he wrote, “was born in July 1970. I asked Rav Teitz to be the sandak at his bris, and he graciously agreed. The bris was on a Shabbos. We davened in the Bais Yitzchok shul and then walked across the street to my home for the bris. Since he and I needed our taleisim for the bris, we wore them as we made our way from the shul to my home. As we were walking outside with our taleisim clearly visible, Rav Teitz turned to me and said, “Thirty-five years ago, who would have believed that one could walk in the streets of Elizabeth wearing a tallis?”

Dr. Levine concludes, “The fact that we could do this in 1970 without any qualms was evidence of how far Rav Teitz had taken the Jewish community since he had become the rav.”

What surprised me was my father walking outside with his tallis visible. He had remarked more than once that only in Israel should one do this – that is the only place that is our home, and where we can feel completely at home; everywhere else we are guests and must conduct ourselves accordingly.

This was not a “golus Jew” mentality; he was not afraid. It was a Torah view of the difference between living in Israel and all other countries. He also disliked ostentatious displays of observance; parading one’s piety made the piety suspect.

Then how did he not only wear a tallis outside but make a positive comment about doing so? Some context will give the answer. A person who studies Torah is aware that “one p’sak [decision] does not fit all.” If one senses the complexity of life and appreciates the depth of Jewish law, one realizes that different circumstances require different responses. One can dislike flamboyant frumkeit, but on a mid-summer Shabbos when one will be sandak at a bris (and the eruv would be built a few years later), one can leave his tallis on to walk from shul to the baby’s home.

This consideration of the variables in life is crucial to the vitality of halacha. When I encounter the phrase about the Torah being written in “black on white,” I think that the Torah holds all the contrasts and does not reduce life to a uniform grey.

His positive remark about doing something unusual is equally revealing. His “gam zu l’tovah” wasn’t a sentimental echo. He thought that if you analyzed it correctly, an obstacle could be a challenge and even an opportunity. He could not abide complaining, bemoaning and criticizing. His favorite quotation in the Torah was Avraham’s answer to Hashem, “hineni,” here am I. He interpreted all that was contained in this single word: “here,” not with the excuse that elsewhere you could be an observant Jew; “am,” at this moment, not saying previous generations could keep Torah but not a modern individual; “I,” not ‘someone else should do something,’ but I will act now. Because he wanted to see what was good he found it in people and in situations. He was positive about making an exception for a simcha.

I am glad that Dr. Levine’s reminiscence led to this exploration of an approach to Torah that is both profound and positive. Thank you for mentioning Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah, the biography of Rav Teitz published by Ktav.

Rivkah Teitz Blau
(Via E-Mail)

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