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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘President Bush’

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

U.S. Jews’ Priorities

Hillel Halkin’s May 13 op-ed (“The Bush Conundrum”) was the best defense of President Bush I’ve read anywhere. The only problem is that Mr. Halkin assumes that your typical liberal American Jew has Israel at the center of his or her priorities, and nothing could be less true.
Ask a sampling of Jewish women living in Manhattan or Boston or Berkeley if the survival of Israel is more important to them than the availability of quick, easy and legal abortion. Ask a random selection of Jewish students on any university campus if a strong and secure Israel is dearer to them than the absolutist secular agenda pursued the ACLU/People for the American Way/Democratic Party axis.

The majority of American Jews long ago threw out any semblance of meaningful Judaism and took as their religion the doctrines of hyper-liberalism. That’s why when I hear someone joking that Jews are such ardent Democrats that most would vote for a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton for president against a conservative Republican (especially a religious conservative Republican), I don’t laugh. Because I know they really would.

Steven Bachman
New York, NY

Mr. Bachman,
Meet Mr. Been

I don’t believe Mr. Halkin understands the dynamic of the American Jewish populace. Yes, it is true that Mr. Bush has backed Israel like no other president has. And yes, Israelis may not understand why American Jews are revolted by the man. But they must understand that American Jews are American and Jewish. Not all American, and not all Jewish; but a combination of the two.

If all things in America, politics, and economics were on an even keel, and the general populace was not bombarded daily by bad news, then Israel might become a larger topic. But politically, the far right is trying to change the fundamental rights found in America, and economically, people are struggling to keep what they have earned and saved.

There is an assault on the basic values of American life. I believe that this takes more precedent currently than liking Bush because of what he does for Israel.

Therefore, it is not a conundrum. It is a basic misunderstanding of the current state of America by Mr. Halkin.

Michael Been
(Via E-Mail)

Legal Case Against Sharon

Very desperate times cry out for very desperate measures. Therefore, parallel with massive civil disobedience (reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s protests) high profile and powerful opponents to Sharon’s “disengagement” expulsion plan must now utilize the legal justifications set forth by Jewish Press columnist Louis Beres and constitutional law expert Howard Grief to thwart this plan.

Professor Beres is an expert in international law. He is also the impetus behind Project Daniel (the policy paper given to Sharon and Bush detailing the legal and necessary underpinnings for preemption against enemy nuclear targets). He has also written “Confronting ‘Disengagement’: Israel, Civil Disobedience and the Higher Law” which can be found at NATIV Online (www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV). This outstanding policy paper lends the absolute legal and moral weight needed to bring charges against the Sharon government for executing the patently illegal “disengagement” expulsion plan.

Howard Grief’s policy paper (also at NATIV), “The Transfer of Jews,” demonstrates beyond a shadow of a legal doubt through Articles 6 and 11 of the Mandate for Palestine, and through the Law of Return, that “if the unilateral disengagement plan is implemented, all the members of the government, including Prime Minister Sharon, could be charged with the crime of treason. Such a charge would actually be officially made if Israel had an Attorney General who truly applied the provisions on treason found in the Penal Code and warned the members in advance of what they were about to do.” Included in this policy paper are many other legal justifications for charges to be brought against the Sharon government.

The above quoted words are a stunning basis for lawsuits that are urgently needed against the Sharon government. While much of the focus so far has been on the immoral aspect of the disengagement expulsion plan, the legal case against it is overwhelming, and is codified both in Israel’s national law and in international law.

Adina Kutnicki
Elmwood Park, NJ

Jewish State Expelling Jews

The Warsaw Ghetto revolt was launched by a relatively small band of poorly armed and poorly trained Jews. Nevertheless, they were able to battle the vaunted Wehrmacht to a standstill. The German commander General Stroop had to ask Berlin for reinforcements. Only with that aid and a fiery scorched earth policy were the Nazis finally able to subdue the courageous Jews after 33 bloody days and nights.

Israel, thank God, has well-trained armed forces equipped with the latest sophisticated hi-tech weapons. Yet, strangely, the IDF has been unable to defeat a few thousand Arab terrorists for the past four and a half years – the result of the prime minister’s decision to constrain the military in favor of political expediency.

Today, Israeli security forces are being trained and mobilized at great financial cost not to defeat the brutal enemy but to expel 8,500 fellow Jews from their homes, factories, schools, synagogues, and even their graves – an incredible and horrible turn of events.

Consequently, concerned Americans must clearly and unequivocally explain to Mr. Sharon on his forthcoming visit to the United States that his disengagement policy is immoral, suicidal, and certainly not kosher. Rather, it is an abomination that sixty years after the Holocaust, the only country in the world engaged in expulsion of Jews is the Jewish state.

Chaim ben Zvi
(Via E-Mail)

Turning Excess Into A Mitzvah

I just returned from a fabulous Pesach vacation. It was amazing to me how much food was thrown out after every meal. I would like to suggest that the hosts and caterers of the various programs sponsor a poor family. This would be a very nice way to perform the mitzvah of maos chitim. Local rabbonim would determine eligibility for sponsorship, and the only cost to the host and caterer would be that of the room.

Heshy Gottlieb
Edison, NJ

Congressional Obstructionism

The proposal Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sent to his Democrat colleagues last week could not have been a more fair compromise to end Democratic obstruction of President Bush’s highly qualified judicial nominees. Leader Frist’s proposal would guarantee President Bush’s nominees a fair up or down vote on the Senate floor while allowing all Senators an opportunity to have their say through a guaranteed 100 hours of debate.

This is a reasonable resolution to the Democrats’ unprecedented use of the filibuster against President Bush’s nominees, and would ensure that the filibuster remains intact for use against legislation. Democrats are obstructing President Bush’s nominees because they know that these nominees will strictly interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. Democrats have even gone so far as to say they will “shut down” the Senate if they do not get their way on judicial nominations.

One of President Bush’s nominees, Janice Rogers Brown, grew up as the daughter of Alabama sharecroppers and became the first African American woman to serve on the California Supreme Court. In 1998, Californians reelected her with 76 percent of the vote. The majority of senators support her nomination for a federal judgeship, but Democrats are standing in the way of her receiving an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

Chayim Leib Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

My Moment With Sharansky

In 1987, Natan Sharansky was a guest speaker at a university in Birmingham, Alabama. News of the event was reported in a local newspaper in Memphis. Tennessee. I was bedridden at the time, recovering from a near fatal automobile accident. Coincidently, I had been reading Sharansky’s book Fear No Evil a short time before I saw the announcement of his speaking engagement.

Fear No Evil was so powerful and inspiring for me that I made a determined decision to leave my bed and drive down to Birmingham to hear him speak. My doctor and my wife reluctantly gave their permission – provided I find a companion to accompany me. Carl Diamond, a”h, a Holocaust survivor, cousin, and close friend, agreed to drive down with me.

We arrived on campus early and entered a large auditorium before anyone else came in. We took seats all the way up front, in the first row behind a roped-off section reserved for faculty and dignitaries. The students poured in and filled the auditorium beyond capacity.

The first thing Carl and I noticed was that we were the only ones wearing yarmulkes. A door at the back of the stage opened and Sharansky entered accompanied by the Dean and two other gentlemen. Carl and I were the only ones to stand up at their entrance. Sharansky’s eyes met ours, and he smiled.

At the conclusion of the program, the Dean announced that those interested in a question and answer session could assemble next door in the adjoining building. As the large room quickly filled to sardine-can capacity, Carl and I were pushed all the way to the back of the room. The Dean was a tall man, and I could see him. Sharansky, much shorter, was barely visible. The Dean asked those who wanted to ask a question to raise their hands. Many hands went up. After several questions were answered, I decided to try my luck.

I raised my hand, and the Dean immediately pointed to me. Instead of asking my question from the back of the room, I – together with Carl – pushed my way up front and came face to face with Sharansky. I introduced myself: “I am Norman Shine from Memphis, Tennessee, and this is Carl Diamond, also from Memphis, formerly from Auschwitz.”

The Dean let out an audible gasp. I told Sharansky that we had driven down from Memphis to hear him speak, and I said I’d read his book. Then I said, “Mr. Sharansky, I do not have a question, I have a thousand questions. Since I cannot ask you a thousand questions, I just want to say that I love you, and I respect you.”

With that, his eyes moistened. He grabbed me in a bear hug and lifted me off the floor. An unforgettable moment.

That was 1987. Sharansky was brilliant in Birmingham and heroic before that as a prisoner of conscience under the Soviets. May 6, 2005, eighteen years later, The Jewish Press featured a front page story with the headline “Sharansky Resigns – Will Fight Gaza Pullout.”

I agree with Sharansky’s position and urge full support for him and for it, along with his promotion to the highest office. My suggestion to any Jew skeptical of my recommendation: go read Fear No Evil.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

Jewish Apathy (I)

The vehement, sometimes violent, reaction Mr. Ishmael Khaldi experienced in response to his support for Israel (“Israeli Bedouin: American Jewish Apathy Shocks Me,” op-ed, Oct. 15) is, unfortunately, not limited to college campuses.

Articles I had put up on my website, which did nothing more than support Israel, received an avalanche of condemnations and threats from Arabs in the Middle East and England to Neo-Nazis in Germany. (Of course, I was not at all apathetic about all this. Aside from the many e-mails I wrote in response, giving them a peace of my mind, in one case I had Yahoo shut down an entire newsgroup of hate-mongers and anti-Semites.)

Can you imagine what the reaction would be if Mr. Khaldi or my articles actually criticized Arab states?

The Jewish apathy that Mr. Khaldi refers to is evident at a far earlier stage than the campus level. The single, biggest root cause of anti-Israel sentiment and anti- Semitism today is, in my opinion, the UN. One UN condemnation of Israel is the equivalent of a multi-billion dollar ad campaign – its twisted message reach the entire world.

If we were to react in proportion to how Arabs react to the feeling of being slighted, Jews would have to hold 24-hour protests in front of the UN every time it condemned Israel for defending itself. No, I take that back – we’d have to go around blowing up hotels and beheading people.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Jewish Apathy (II)

Phyllis Chesler is to be heartily commended for her tireless battle against the forces of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that have commandeered so much of the intellectual and ideological terrain in both the media and academia. Her Jewish Press op-eds on the subject – particularly her most recent efforts dealing with the disgraceful behavior of Duke University in hosting a Palestinian Solidarity Movement hatefest – are a clarion call to American Jews to snap out of their apathy.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of American Jews – utterly secular, thoroughly liberal, abysmally ignorant of their heritage and history – are beyond redemption. And believe me, after nearly 30 years of working as a community services professional in several cities, I know this tribe. Not only are large numbers of American Jews unaware or apathetic about the inroads made by Palestinian propaganda – many are actually in agreement, at least to some degree, with Palestinian claims.

We are a people with little self-respect, a perverted sense of priorities, and no clue as to who our friends are. Think I’m being too harsh? Remember this letter on Nov. 2 as American Jews march to the polls on Nov. 2 to vote en masse for John Kerry.

Isadore Frank
(Via E-Mail)

Children’s Yom Tov Drinking

I heartily agree with Dr. Ariel Fischer’s comments (Letters, Oct. 15): Alcohol abuse is a serious problem on the yomim tovim, especially Simchas Torah and Purim. I would add, however, that the unsupervised drinking going on in shuls during hakafos has a more immediate danger: children succumbing to alcohol poisoning. A l’chaim or two on occasion is generally not problematic for adults, but children have lower body mass and are far more susceptible to alcohol’s harmful effects. I had to take a shot of 80-proof Scotch away from a 12-year-old boy in shul this yom tov. “What’s the problem?” he asked. “My father lets me drink!”

When I tried to tell this boy that drinking hard liquor is not the best way to celebrate Simchas Torah, several other men accosted me. “What, you never drank when you were underage? What’s your problem? Are you a cop?”

This kind of purposeful ignorance of health, science and safety is, I fear, prevalent among some segments of the Orthodox community. If you tell children not to drink, you’re just a killjoy and obviously not interested in maintaining tradition. As long as these attitudes are being expressed, we have a long way to go until our shuls become proper models of simchas yom tov. I think rabbonim of every stripe and teachers from grades 6 and up in yeshivas must emphasize the importance of safe and wholesome fun on yom tov and throughout the year.

Yaakov Levine
(Via E-Mail)

Help Requested

I am president of Action to Cure Kidney Cancer, a grassroots advocacy organization, which is seeking Ashkenazi Jewish individuals who have or have had kidney cancer for participation in a genetic study conducted by the National Cancer Institute to determine if there is a gene that causes kidney cancer. If so, the NCI plans to develop a diagnostic test that would identify those people at greater risk for the disease.

To learn more about participating in the study, please e-mail me at Jay.Bitkower@ackc.org  or phone 212-615-6404.

Jay Bitkower
(Via E-Mail)

Presidential Polemics

Wrong Choice

As the Republican challenger against John Kerry in his 1990 Senate reelection campaign, I know Kerry well and harbor doubts about his ability to lead our country and keep us safe. As a Jew, my doubts extend to Kerry’s willingness to act to keep Israel secure. With President Bush, I have no such doubts.

Throughout his political career, Kerry has worked to gut our military aid and intelligence capabilities. He worked consistently to prevent the modernization of our armed forces and, whenever given the opportunity, almost always voted to cut or cancel the weapons systems that won the first Persian Gulf war and that are currently fighting and winning the War on Terror. Likewise, his record on sponsoring and promoting pro-Israel legislation is lukewarm.

To this day, it seems that the terror attacks of 9/11 changed little for John Kerry. Last January, he explained that the ”war on terror is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement operation.” This belief, along with his declaration at the Democratic National Convention that ”[a]ny attack [on the U.S.] will be met with a swift and certain response,” indicates that for him, the terrorist strikes on Washington and New York were isolated events. This is the failed pre-9/11 approach to fighting terrorism.

When it comes to Israel, Kerry has been equivocal. Last October, in a speech before an Arab American audience, he criticized Israel’s security fence as ”another barrier to peace.” Today, however, he says he is in favor of the fence as a way to prevent terror attacks. In a September 12 interview with Time magazine, Kerry complained that the Bush administration has not ”even engaged in a legitimate effort to try to really transform the ability of Israel to find a legitimate entity to negotiate with.” Whatever this highly nuanced statement means, a President Kerry would presumably tap former ambassador Martin Indyk (Kerry’s point man on Israel) to be the one to transform Israel’s ability to find an entity. This is troubling to many Jews and friends of Israel because Indyk has been an inveterate apologist for Yasir Arafat.

In contrast, President Bush understands that America’s and Israel’s ongoing fights against terror are linked. He has repeatedly affirmed Israel’s right to defend herself against terror and stated that a Palestinian state ”will never be created by terror. It will be build through reform.” Unlike Kerry and Indyk, President Bush refuses to deal with Arafat.

The marginalization of Israel and Jews by the Democrats was clearly evident during the Democratic National Convention, where the topic of Israel was barely broached. Of the major convention speakers, only John Edwards mentioned ”a safe and secure Israel,” and when he did, he did not pause for applause. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman speculated to the Jerusalem Post, ”I think they rushed over it because they did not want to show divisiveness in the audience. There may have been some people there who are not receptive.”

What does it say when the Democratic leadership has to tiptoe past the issue of Israel when speaking to its most loyal party members?

At the Republican National Convention, on the other hand, the major speakers, from Mayor Giuliani to Vice President Cheney to President Bush, all mentioned Israel and acknowledged the need for the U.S. to stand by her. These statements were met with standing ovations by the Republican party faithful. This explains why a number of high profile Democrats, such as Ed Koch and Zell Miller, have broken ranks with their party to support President Bush. It also explains why many Jews who have never before voted Republican are going to vote for George W. Bush on November 2.

James W. Rappaport
Boston, MA

Selective Morality

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on the night of July 29, John Kerry said: “We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest Commandments: “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

In the October 8 debate between Kerry and President Bush, a young woman asked Kerry the following: “Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person?”

Kerry replied, “I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now. First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I’m a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today.”

But then he went on to say, “I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can’t do that.”

Does Kerry believe that you can pick and choose among the Commandments, disregarding the ones you don’t like – or did he just change his mind between July 29 and October 8? He seems to have forgotten about the Commandment “Thou shalt not murder.”

To add insult to injury, when Kerry said he “can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith,” he included Jews. Perhaps Kerry doesn’t realize that the Commandments, including the one he quoted at the convention, was first given to the Jewish nation.

Moshe Resnick
Brooklyn, NY

Hateful Campaigning

With Election Day approaching, the presidential campaigns are intensifying, not only on the part of the candidates themselves, but among over-zealous supporters. Sometimes these supporters cross the line from disagreement to hatred.

A local example of this is in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, where an anonymous vandal has been posting anti-Bush stickers all over subway stations, phone booths, street lamps, and mail boxes. None of them displayed awareness of issues, preferring childish insults such as “Bush is a satan,” “Vote the Cowboy out of Office,” and “Bush lies, who dies?” Most pedestrians, regardless of political affiliation, have dismissed the stickers as the ravings of a lunatic.

However, last week, on the corner of Union Turnpike and Markwood Drive, a much larger sticker in the same handwriting had a “Bush is a Fascist” slogan written on it. What made the sticker offensive was that the S in Bush’s name was shaped like a swastika. In my opinion, this crossed the line from reasonable disagreement to hate speech.

My family has experienced fascism and survived the Holocaust, and we find the “Bush is fascist” slogan to be disgusting and hateful. This is especially disturbing because the swastika-bearing stickers are located in a largely Jewish neighborhood, where the community seems split between the two candidates.

I ask the anti-Bush crowd to show some decency, and to stop comparing the president to Hitler. I ask for unity after the election, whoever gets elected. Like many Americans, I am tired of the negative campaigning. If anything, the hateful anti-Bush stickers are strengthening my support for President Bush, and I’m a Democrat.

Sergio Kadinsky
Forest Hills, NY

Still Making The Case For Kerry

I want to thank you for twice providing me with an opportunity to present the case for Jews supporting John Kerry for president and for providing me this additional space to respond to critics of my position.

At this stage, I do not think it would be helpful to use my limited space to adequately argue that Bush has misled us into a disastrous quagmire in Iraq; that his actions have alienated our allies and increased the prospects for terrorism; that his spending of $120 billion in Iraq and his major tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate contributors diverted money from hiring additional police and other security forces and from protecting our harbors, transportation systems, nuclear, chemical, and biological systems, and thus made us more vulnerable to terrorism; that his ill-conceived domestic policies are and will increasingly have severe negative effects for Jews and others; and that Kerry has the potential to help Israel greatly improve her security and prosperity.

Instead, I think it best to seek common ground and consider areas I believe Jews should be increasingly involved in, no matter who we support or who is elected. Certainly, we must remain strong and actively combat terrorism, and work to keep Israel strong and secure. But I believe that we must also actively apply Jewish values to the many other problems that threaten humanity as perhaps never before.

* Since Judaism teaches that Jews are to be partners with God in protecting the environment, shouldn’t we be involved when species are disappearing at the fastest rate in history, tropical rain forests are being rapidly destroyed, at least half the world’s people are projected to be living in areas chronically short of adequate clean water by the middle of this century, our air and water are being badly polluted by many toxic chemicals, and our soil is being eroded and depleted by inefficient agricultural methods, including the raising of 50 billion farmed animals annually worldwide?

* Since Judaism stresses that wise people consider the effects of their actions on future generations, shouldn’t we concerned that an average increase in the world’s temperature in the last century is already causing the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, record heat waves, and increasingly severe floods, storms, droughts, and forest fires, and if even the most conservative of temperature increases projected by the world’s leading climate scientists occur, it would have catastrophic effects for humanity.

Shouldn’t we protest against policies that reward the wealthiest among us and selfish corporate interests, and have resulted in a shift from record budget surpluses to record deficits, a major loss of jobs, and cutbacks in educational and health programs and social services that Jews and others depend on.

Of course, there are no simple answers to these and other problems that need to be addressed, but I believe The Jewish Press and its readers would perform a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name, by helping to get them onto the Jewish agenda.

Richard H. Schwartz
(Via E-Mail)

Criticism Of Boro Park Leaders Justified

Reader Shifra Bronstein notes (Letters, Oct. 8) that Rabbi Yackov Saacks’s “Open Letter to the Boro Park Jewish Community” two weeks earlier contained ‘harsh language.’ Such harshness was quite appropriate.

As Rabbi Saacks’s letter poignantly stated, Gidone Busch was murdered “[f]irst by the police, then again by a smear campaign, and lastly by the Jewish community of Boro Park which let him and his family hang out to dry.” While the first of these might be attributed to some unfortunate dysfunction within the New York City Police Department, the Boro Park Jewish Community must collectively account for its complicity in the latter two.

It is, of course, quite true that not all members of the community are or were complacent in this matter. But many among the community leadership, eager to do whatever it took to make this thing go away, opted for the path of least resistance with their unquestioning sycophancy to the city administration and the NYPD. Gidone, after all, was quite convenient to sweep under the rug; he had no family or established support in Boro Park, his immediate family had no active ties (other than nostalgia) with the Orthodox religious establishment, and the family’s elected officials from Long Island held no political sway in Brooklyn.

The stage was thus set for a smear campaign against Gidone Busch that continues to this day. The newspapers used exaggerations and innuendo to denigrate and degrade Gidone, and painted a picture of a monster who in no way resembled the real Gidone Busch who had, in his lifetime, been a frequent visitor to my own shul and community.

Certain frum newspapers were complicit in this crusade to sully Gidone’s reputation; Yated Ne’eman described him as “mentally deranged” and Hamodia, with wishful thinking, reported the November 2003 verdict against the Busch family in their suit against the City of New York as “the final chapter in the tragic saga surrounding the killing of Gidone Busch.”

It may well have been appropriate policy for the Boro Park Jewish community to stand by the NYPD when the story first broke. But once the ambiguities, gaps and discrepancies in the story became apparent (as they did relatively early on), it should then have been obvious that the City administration needed the Boro Park community’s backing even more than the community needed the administration’s smiles and kind words.

At that juncture, the obsequious public stance of certain members of the Boro Park leadership only served to encourage further abuses by the NYPD, the City of New York, and the news media. And there obviously was something wrong with the picture when the anti-Jewish demagogue Al Sharpton showed greater support for Gidone Busch’s family than many of the Boro Park Jewish leadership. The abandonment by the Jewish community of its own vulnerable members does not, cannot and never has inspired the world to respect us.

Had the Boro Park community leadership demanded answers instead of kowtowing to the City administration’s party line, it is very likely that the NYPD would not have gone as far as it did in manipulating the evidence or concocting stories found incredible by Judge Johnson (himself a former NYPD officer).

Had the Boro Park community leadership cried out on behalf of the blood of Gidone Busch that was spilled upon their neighborhood’s sidewalks, then the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office might have acted a bit more scrupulously in its conduct of the ensuing litigation.

And the utter contempt accorded to the memory of Gidone Busch no doubt gave the green light to certain physicians at New York Presbyterian Hospital and certain New York Times reporters who totally disregarded and disrespected Gidone Busch’s dignity by leaking and publishing his medical history in the press.

Gidone was viewed by the Boro Park Jewish leadership as an expendable and unwanted outsider, and was shunned accordingly in death as in life. There is little doubt that the matter would have been handled quite differently had Gidone Busch been the son of a prominent Boro Park rabbi or politician.

Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.
East Northport, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Friday, November 12th, 2004

When Sharon Was Sharon

Some words from Ariel Sharon’s 1995 eulogy for Ofrah Felix, who was murdered by terrorists:

“I remember her as a little girl in the Shomron horizons, one of the followers of this beautiful and difficult land. How can we eulogize a 19 year old girl? A girl who is a sacrifice to concessions and surrender to terrorism, to Jewish weakness, to the loss of the sense of our
right to the land…”

“I know that these are harsh words, but no words are too harsh when these murderous acts have become a daily fare, and when a government in Jerusalem transfers responsibility for Jewish lives to a Palestinian terrorist organization… And the situation is getting worse, because despite the fact that the [Oslo] agreement has failed, as could have been predicted, the government continues its efforts to give over the authorities and pieces of our homeland to the war criminal Arafat.

“The government is hoping that the settlers? spirit will fall, that their faith will break, that they will want to leave… I know them for more than 20 years, and I know: Their spirit will not fall, and their faith will not break. Governments will fall and will arise, but the settlers will remain here forever, and will continue to build beautiful communities…

“I see the next generation, the generation of Ofrah, and I see that they are no less [strong] than their parents. There is a continuance. They lead in the settlement enterprise; they lead in the army; they lead in love of the land and in self- sacrifice. For them, Zionism is not yet over, and they still have a long way to go. For them, the Shomron hills, the mountains of Judea and the sands of Katif and Netzarim are not just a historic right but also a true home.”

May these words go before Mr. Sharon?s eyes and his conscience.

Bruce Ridgley

Sobering Advice

As a health care professional, I am alarmed by the high prevalence of alcohol abuse in our community, especially over the recent holidays. Perhaps people are not aware of the serious health consequences of chronic alcoholism. Increased consumption of alcohol increases the risk of hypertension, Alzheimer’s Disease, pancreatitis, impotence and cardiomyopathy (congestive heart failure).

Alcoholism greatly increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. The incidence of depression, divorce, suicide, and motor vehicle accidents are much higher in alcoholics. And, of course, liver disease. Almost all cirrhosis (end stage liver failure) in the United States is due to alcoholism.

But there is one disease that is very common among Orthodox Jews. It takes its name from the longest river in Africa – denial. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol dependence, don’t be an ostrich. Get professional help.

Ariel Fischer, M.D., F.A.C.P.
(Via E-Mail)

Sudan Genocide

With great dismay I’ve read about the genocide in the Darfur province of the Sudan, where the government-supported Arab Janjaweed militia massacres black Africans.

The killings are an act of racial cleansing in the highest degree. This is supported by the fact that the persecuted black Africans share the same religion and language but are not of the same color as the marauding Arab nomads and their supporters.

I’m equally dismayed by the reaction – or rather the non-reaction – of an African-American community that is so quick to condemn Israel for defending its citizens against Arab terrorists.

In light of what is happening in Sudan, I would strongly suggest that Louis Farrakhan and his followers closely examine the situation and conclude who their friends really are. Certainly they are not the Muslim marauders, the killers of black Africans

Joseph Ceder
Far Rockaway, NY

Defending The President

Removal Of Saddam

It is unfortunate that Richard H. Schwartz (Letters, Oct. 1) continues to obfuscate the issues in claiming that John Kerry would be better for Israel than President Bush.

The confusion is understandable when one merely looks at their respective verbal overtures of support for the Jewish state; however, to really understand how the two candidates size up, one need look no further than Kerry’s inability to justify Saddam Hussein’s removal from power given the current cost of war in Iraq vs. Bush’s unswerving resolve to eliminate this brutal dictator from the world scene despite those costs.

From an Israeli standpoint, one cannot ignore the enormous impediment this has been to the Palestinian homicide bomber movement.

If Saddam’s $25,000 cash award to families of homicide bombers seems like a small payout for giving up one’s life, some simple math can put it all into perspective. According to the most recent survey of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average yearly wage of a Palestinian worker is (NIS) 17,496. Based on the most recent rate of exchange, that translates into (U.S.) $3,916. Compare that to the average yearly salary of an American worker of $37,764.

In other words, a lump sum of $25,000 would be the equivalent of close to six-and-a-half years’ salary for the average Palestinian, or in U.S. terms, almost $250,000. That’s a pretty big enticement that prospective Palestinian homicide bombers no longer have, thanks to President Bush. If John Kerry were president, that deadly incentive would still very much be a viable one today.

Was removing Saddam Hussein from power the primary cause of the reduction in homicide bombings against Israel since his demise? Probably not. But was it a contributing factor? You bet it was.

Yossi Azose
West Hempstead, NY

‘Foremost Destroyer Of Israel’s Enemies’

Three years ago America was brutally reminded of the dangers we face from hate-filled extremists. Our response to the attacks on our soil has been to remove two regimes that President Bush deemed threats and sponsors of the terrorism that imperils us and Israel.

Some call invading Iraq a mistake. I think not. Beyond allowing terrorists harbor and training on his own soil throughout the 1990’s (the butcher Zarqawi and Abu Abbas, the thug who killed a wheelchair-bound American Jew on a hijacked ocean liner, are two prominent examples), Saddam Hussein was among the world’s foremost terrorists and sponsors. He had a standing reward for families of Palestinian suicide bombers and tried to outdo them by shooting Scud missiles at Israel. He kept an airliner for hijacking practice at a training camp in Iraq and used chemical WMD on the Iranians and on his own Kurdish population.

Hussein defied the UN for eleven years and we gave him an additional year in what some insist on calling a “hasty” buildup to the invasion.

Hussein employed biological-weapons scientists. In these perilous times, we couldn’t afford to wait any longer and we couldn’t leave him alone. All civilized people, especially Jews with concern for Israel, should rejoice at his ouster and be grateful to the one responsible.

But I recently received an e-mail from a strong supporter of Israel who gratuitously mocked the president. I replied that it was hard for me to understand how folks with such love for Israel could be so negative toward the world’s foremost destroyer of Israel’s enemies.

Each terrorist who dies in Iraq is one less to invade our shores or board a bus in Jerusalem. Libya took notice of the war and gave up its nuclear ambitions. Pakistan is now apprehending terrorists. Mullahs in Iran and Ba’athists in Syria are desperately repressing the popular unrest that’s being fueled by the unfolding of freedom next door. Just having our forces on the Iranian and Syrian borders justifies the war in Iraq, as no war on terrorism will ever be won until those governments no longer exist in their present form. All this is a direct result of President Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein.

If we’re serious about eliminating those that would do to each of us what they did to Leon Klinghoffer or Daniel Pearl or the victims of 9/11, then rooting out terrorists wherever they lurk is our only option.

I realize that John Kerry will easily win the majority of the Jewish vote (even though a recent Israeli poll shows that Israelis support Bush almost three to one), but it would be nice if more American Jews recognized President Bush and the present-day Republican Party as the allies they are.

Barney Brenner
Tucson, AZ

Left-Wing Candidate Of A Left-Wing Party

The Democratic Party of 2004 is no longer the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Scoop Jackson. Those Democrats firmly stood for a strong central government, a moral foreign policy and for national defense. These policies have augured well for Israel, the Jewish people and America.

However, the party is now led by Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Kucinich, and Sharpton and represents policies of isolationism, class distinctions, and a weak national defense. Kerry’s foreign policy record demonstrates that he is in this far-left category.

Over the past three decades, Kerry has consistently sided with Communist Vietnam against the interests of the United States. In 1971, he led the Veterans Against the Vietnam War. In 1972, he personally brought the Viet Cong negotiation positions to President Nixon from the Paris talks. As a senator, in 2003 he blocked the Vietnam Human Rights Bill which attempted to ameliorate human rights conditions in Vietnam. He also supported open trade with Vietnam in 1993 without demanding much in return for the United States.

Kerry has shown a consistent pattern of trying to block a strong defense for the United States including voting against planes, armor for the troops in Iraq and missile systems. He believes in the far-left view that the U.S. is an imperialist country. In his sweeping indictment of all Vietnam veterans – and indeed the United States military – at his infamous Senate hearing in April 1971, he used language typical of the radical left

Furthermore, Kerry emphatically stated in the first debate that as president he would look to the UN and to Europe, and would subject U.S. foreign policy to a ‘global test.’ Israel’s existence is in danger if it is subject to a “global test.”

Surveys show that only 26 percent of registered Democrats support Israel in its current conflict with its neighbors; while 73 percent of Republicans support Israel. Republican Senators like Brownback from Kansas and Sessions from Alabama are now in the forefront of support for Israel. Approximately 70 percent of Americans living in Israel are voting for President Bush.

Let us not be distracted by Democratic social policies, or wrap ourselves in moral platitudes concerning domestic issues. Congress effectuates domestic policy. No president can create jobs. The exclusive domain of the Executive Office is foreign policy. President Bush’s response to the horrific events of 9/11 initiated the first major American offensive against Islamic extremism.

President Clinton gave the terrorists, including Arafat and Bin Laden, a pass. President Bush, on the other hand, has surrounded himself, at the highest policy levels, with persons sensitive to American and Israeli security and whom the far-left radicals categorize as “neocons” (an anti-Semitic innuendo).

Jewish voters gave Ronald Reagan 40 percent of our vote in 1980 and thereby helped defeat the anti-Israel, anti-national defense Carter administration. It worked out well for Israel, the U.S. and the world in the 1980’s.

This year let us show our gratitude to President George W. Bush.

Joseph Friedman
(Via E-Mail)

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004

Unite Behind The Winner

During a Thursday morning interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Boston Red Sox pitching star Curt Schilling looked into the camera and said, “Tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.” Many were excited to hear this beloved pitcher endorse President Bush.

Well, the people have spoken. Our democratic electoral process is far from perfect, and improvements may well be needed. But as President Lincoln reminded us, government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” constitutes the best hope on earth. Once the people have spoken on Election Day, no matter how close the call, it behooves us to come together in unity behind the winner. Otherwise, the old saying “united we stand, divided we fall” just may prove to be literally true.

President Bush understands, like John Stuart Mill understood years ago, that war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. President Bush understands that there can indeed be such things as a bad peace and a just war. We are fighting a just war today, the most important of wars – a war that will determine the existence or demise of the free world.

Brian J. Goldenfeld
Woodland Hills

The Sagacious Edgar

It’s fascinating how muddled one’s thinking can get when trying to justify aberrant behavior. Edgar Bronfman, head of The World Jewish Congress, proposes that Jews deem intermarriage permissible as long as “they … bring up their children as Jewish” (“Tevye the Milkman and the Clueless Mr. Bronfman”, editorial, Nov. 5).

If you’re going to permit intermarriage, which is against probably the most fundamental commandment responsible for our endurance as a nation for thousands of years, you’re not very likely to instill much respect for any other Torah commandment. So what exactly does Mr. Bronfman mean by bringing children up Jewish? That is, once you eliminate every
vestige of Judaism from your life, what have you got left to bring your kids up Jewish with?

During Chanukah, you’ll put latkas into your kid’s ham sandwich? At the Passover Seder, you’ll tell your kids stories about how we used to be a persecuted people – until G-d gave us the Borscht Belt?

Did G-d go through the trouble of gathering us at Mt. Sinai just to give us a Torah that’s optional? And what about the Ten Commandments? Are they multiple choice?

We have Jewish laws that are not applicable in the absence of the Temple and we have laws that do not apply to Jews outside the Land of Israel. If we had laws that ceased to have relevance in modern times, as Mr. Bronfman and other Reform Jews seem to believe, I’m quite confident the Torah itself would have informed us of this. It does not.

Furthermore, the notion that considering anyone a Jews as long as they marry a Jew would “double the amount of Jews” is not supported by any evidence that I’m aware of. If anything, statistics probably suggest the contrary; intermarriage in greater numbers would more than likely cause a reduction in identifiable Jews through assimilation.

Besides, if you’re going to include people as Jews in such an arbitrary, whimsical, non-Torah- compliant manner, why stop at marriage? Why not declare that all those living on the same block as a Jew are Jewish? We could go from a minority to a super race overnight. Eventually, we could upgrade our laws to include extraterrestrials. Imagine – we could have Jewish galaxies!

What a brilliant idea. Mr Bronfman, thank you for enlightening us.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Rebbe’s Advice To Sharon

Thirty-five years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised Ariel Sharon to stay out of politics. The directive came at the beginning of a two-page letter dated 18 Menachem Av, 5730.

At this moment, when Sharon is wreaking havoc in Israel with his push to withdraw from Gush Katif, signaling weakness and defeat to our enemies and perpetrating pain and grief on our brothers and sisters, the time is right to publicize the Rebbe’s directive. Below is an excerpt. For a full copy of the letter, please call (718) 493-4848 to have it faxed.

Basha Oka Botnick
(Via E-Mail)

18 Menachem Av 5730

“As we discussed when you were here, it is my opinion that your proper place is in Tzahal, and it is there that with G-d’s assistance you are successful and will continue to be so. Of course, this is in addition to the benefit derived thereby by the general public – the Jewish Nation, the Holy Nation that dwells in the land of Israel, the Holy Land, which G-d has blessed you with the privilege of protecting by means of your exceptional abilities, effort and vigor.

… Based on the above-stated, one can readily appreciate my opinion, that it makes no sense at all for you to switch to a different occupation, and most certainly not in the political arena – even to become a government official – for that is not your mission, and you will not utilize your talents and experience thereby. Quite the contrary.”

In Defense Of Chumros

Dr. David Berger (“On the Prohibition of Water: An Appeal to Poskim,” op-ed, Oct. 22) implies that current religious leaders are adapting unwarranted stringencies and essentially playing “frummer than thou.” Did Dr. Berger speak to one of the poskim in order to get an answer to his question?

Dr. Berger tries to convince the unsuspecting masses that the p’sak is unfounded, but reader Michoel Strauss goes one step further in his Nov. 5 letter to the editor. He posits that this ruling is simply the latest manifestation of what he describes as a climate in the Orthodox community of “mindless ritualism and a ‘can you top this’ chumraism.” This is a particularly insidious approach, as Mr. Strauss derisively labels recent edicts chumros – which he clearly believes need not be followed.

For argument’s sake, let’s accept that the decision about New York City water is nothing more than a chumra. Mr. Strauss and those of his ilk should understand that chumros are an essential element of Judaism. Consider just a few examples – waiting six hours between meat and dairy meals, avoiding rice on Pesach, even the way we keep Shabbos. As my rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zelig Friedman, shlita, has explained, the observance of Shabbos 2,500 years ago bore little resemblance to our present-day practices. Kiddush over wine had not yet been instituted, and people did not as a rule go to synagogue to daven with a minyan. The Gemara tells us that Avraham avinu kept the entire Torah including chumras which would later be instituted by our Sages.

Basically, chumros are legislated for one of two not necessarily exclusive reasons: either as a safeguard to mitzvot or to enhance our observance. The Gemara relates that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because the people “properly kept the Torah,” explaining that a Jew cannot be satisfied with simply keeping the Torah but must act “lifnim mishuras hadin” – beyond the letter of the Law.

Please consider that the rabbis being criticized are internationally and universally accepted poskim as well as men of impeccable character. That their opinions could be subjected to scrutiny boggles the mind. If this p’sak is rejected, just what role do Dr. Berger and Mr. Strauss expect gedolei Yisrael to play in the future of our nation? Would they like to set up a lay board which would approve all halachic decisions before they are promulgated?

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

Selective And Deceptive

I thought your readers would be interested in the following letter that I sent to The New York Times.

Ed Koch
New York, NY

To the Editor:

In today’s [Sept. 21] article reporting the decapitation by terrorists in Iraq of American civilian Eugene Armstrong, The Times reporter wrote:

“In the video of the beheading, an insurgent wearing a ski mask and surrounded by four men with assault rifles says the group is killing Mr. Armstrong because the American occupiers and the interim Iraqi government failed to meet the deadline. Much of the man’s long speech is addressed to President Bush, who is called a dog at one point.”

Please note that the news article omitted an important part of the story which was the exact phrase uttered by the executioner at the time he cut Armstrong’s throat and severed his head from his body. That phrase was, ‘Oh you Christian dog, Bush, stop your arrogance.’

The reference to President Bush by the terrorist strengthens the belief of many that we are involved in a war of civilizations. Fanatic Islamists believe that Christians and Jews who do not recognize the supremacy of Islam should die. That awful message is part of the story and The Times erred in not carrying that quote which many other papers did.

Lee Hamilton, Co-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, has said in describing Muslim terrorists, ‘They want to kill us.’ Why? Because those making up western civilization and its ideas which Jihad is bent on destroying are overwhelming Christians and Jews. I believe it is President Bush’s faith that gives him the strength to stay with and implement the Bush Doctrine which is, ‘We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.’

Your reporter refers to the spokesman for the murderers as an ‘insurgent.’ What would it take for The Times to call someone who has just participated in the beheading of an innocent civilian a terrorist? I am sure the public would like to know.

All the best.


Edward I. Koch

Question Of Free Will

All right, class it’s time for Theocracy 101. Let’s start with the age-old question,”If G-d knows the future, then how can it be said that man has free will?” The answer is that since G-d knows the inner workings of man and the choices he will make, He manipulates events and places the appropriate people in the situations needed to carry out His will.

If we accept this resolution, then perhaps a burgeoning dispute between reader Deborah Diamond and Rachel Weiss, who penned a splendid Rosh Hashanah front-page essay (‘Forever in Awe,’ Sept. 17), can be doused. Ms. Diamond (Letters, Sept. 24) was troubled by Ms. Weiss’s contention that Messrs. Bush and Cheney are merely pawns blindly following the Master Plan. She argued that if we followed this line of reasoning, Hitler could not be held accountable for his crimes against humanity.

Following the model introduced above, Hashem decides on a course of action and then orchestrates, so the needed rashaim and tzaddikim are properly aligned. Hitler, then, could accomplish nothing without Heavenly assent.

This of course leads to the next question: “Are we to imagine G-d allowing or even calling for such atrocities to occur?”

Several approaches have been offered by gedolei Torah, and while they vary greatly, they all acknowledge that Hashem is at all times in absolute and complete control of everything. It is a tenet of our faith that the time will come when we will recognize that even the hardships were acts of Divine Love.

While I’m a sucker for esoteric philosophical discussions, what compelled me to write was Ms. Diamond’s demeaning and rather offensive tone. To disagree with Ms. Weiss is one thing, but not to acknowledge that she crafted a beautiful piece of work is quite another.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Tears For A Friend

She is more than a young woman in a body bag. When you saw her picture in the media, did you think “she was just another troublemaking settler?” Did it pass your mind fleetingly that”if she wasn’t in a home in a settlement in Gaza, she would still be alive?”

Please don’t refer to her as another casualty from the other side of the green line.

She has a name. Her name is Tifferet Trattner. And Tifferet Trattner was my good friend. She was a beautiful young woman with a bright mind, a kind hear and a gentle soul. She loved animals and had an innate gift with them. She was a woman who wouldn’t harm anything or anyone. She was simple, loving, and pure. We worked in a zoo and I often brought my children to work with her there several years ago when we first moved to Israel. She also lived with our family for several months a couple of years back.

Tifferet was about peace. She respected all of life. And her life was not an easy one. She suffered a tragic loss of her mother while in her teens. Her family was affected by terrorism in the past. Yet she still loved life and people, and was devoid of cynicism and hate.

But today, early this morning, her life was brutally ended by hateful terrorists who bombed her home and spilled her blood throughout.

I grieve for the loss of this brilliant woman who was one of my first friends in Israel. The one who on more than one occasion schlepped boxes of books in English on two-hour bus rides from Jerusalem, just so I would be happy and have something to read. I weep for my friend, for her family’s grief and loss as well as that of my own family’s, and for the many other people who knew her and loved her. And I wonder when the hate and madness will stop.

Pnina Leor
(Via E-Mail)

Still Making The Case For Kerry

Responses to my “The Case for Kerry” (op-ed, Sept. 10) and other recent material in The Jewish Press lead me to the respectful conclusion that many Jewish Bush supporters are overlooking Bush’s positions and policies that are very harmful to Jews and others.

Many Bush supporters apparently underestimate the significance of environmental threats. I wonder if they know that, for example, air pollution in Israel kills far more Israelis than automobile accidents and terrorism combined and contributes significantly to the fact that one in six Israeli children has asthma. According to Israel’s Environmental Ministry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 1,400 Israelis die annually in greater Tel Aviv and Ashdod alone. Since pollution is also a serious threat in the U.S., we should be concerned that Bush is often more concerned with the interests of his corporate contributors than the health and safety of the public, and that he has by far the worst environmental record of our recent presidents.

Bush’s failure to address global warming is also serious because, contrary to Rachel Diskind’s assertion (Letters, Sept. 24), most climate scientists agree that global warming is largely due to human activities and it is already occurring: glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, over 20,000 Europeans died in an unprecedented heat wave in August, 2003, and there have been major increases in the number and severity of storms, flooding, droughts, and forest fires, all of which may have global warming connections. And climate scientists are predicting major temperature increases in the next century, with potential catastrophic effects for all of humanity.

Even Tony Blair, Bush’s biggest supporter re Iraq, pledged just last week to make climate change “a top priority,” stating that climate change is “a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power that it radically alters human existence.”

Jews and others should also be concerned about Bush’s conversion of record budget surpluses into record deficits that our children and grandchildren will be paying off for years. How many Jews and others will be affected by cuts in education, health care, and other social programs, while Bush continues to give major tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans? How many have been affected by the facts that the Bush administration is the first since that of Hoover to have a net loss in jobs and that poverty and the number of people without health care increased during each year of the Bush administration?

Re Michael J. Wiscott’s argument (“The Case for Bush,” op-ed, Sept. 10) that Congress, not the president, controls domestic issues: Since the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives for all of Bush’s term and the Senate for most of it, he definitely got his way on most domestic issues, and thus he should be held accountable for his dismal economic record. Contrary to Ms. Diskind’s assertion, most economists agree that the recession started during Bush’s term, not Clinton’s.

Certainly terrorism must be addressed, but I believe the record shows that Bush has also failed in this area. He has not provided sufficient money to hire additional police and to secure our ports, chemical and nuclear plants, transportation systems, and other facilities. Instead he has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in involving us in a quagmire in Iraq, in a war that looks increasingly unwinnable, while diverting attention from bin Laden and other terrorists.

Every four days we spend as much in Iraq as was spent in Bush’s entire four years on securing our ports, at which we can currently verify the contents of only about five percent of the 21,000 containers that daily enter the U.S. The number of insurgents in Iraq is soaring, attacks on U.S. troops have doubled since last winter, major Iraqi cities have become havens for insurgents and are completely inaccessible to U.S. troops, and security threats have stalled reconstruction.

Bush’s policies have lost the support and credibility of many of our allies. It’s wonderful that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power (may all dictators disappear!), but we are breeding a whole new generation of terrorists who may view Israel and Jews worldwide as convenient outlets for their hatred of America.

As one who has two daughters, their husbands and all of my grandchildren living in Israel, I am very concerned about Israel’s security and well being. As indicated in my op-ed “The Case for Kerry,” there are many reasons to believe that Kerry, especially with the traditional congressional support provided for Israel, would be just as supportive of Israel as Bush. I wonder why his supporters generally ignore statements like the one Bush made recently to the UN: “Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations.”

An especially important point is that in a second term, Bush would not need to seek Jewish votes, and he would be looking to his “legacy,” which might include pressing Israel to make dangerous concessions. Bush?s close connections with the Saudis and with powerful oil interests should also be considered.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful New Year and a joyous Sukkos.

Richard H. Schwartz
(Via E-Mail)

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Rather Lame Apology

It’s ironic that Dan Rather’s mea culpa concerning the forged memos has come amidst the aseret yemei teshuva. But when one considers Mr. Rather’s admission of guilt, one crucial component was strikingly absent – no apology was given to President Bush.

Halacha is unequivocal: anyone who wishes to repent after committing a sin against his fellow man must first seek forgiveness from the victim. This is brought down as an undisputed opinion in the Talmud and codified in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. The concept is not just a Jewish ideal but a universal truism.

Mr. Rather’s display of contrition was carefully worded to salvage his journalistic integrity in the eyes of his ever-shrinking viewership. That he failed to recognize the wrong he committed against another human being leaves his apology far from adequate. Journalists at all levels of media must realize that their responsibility lies not only in feeding the public accurate information, but also in saving the subjects of their stories from the damage propagated by
fallacious accusations.

Mr. Rather closed his public apology with the forthright statement, “I want to say personally and directly, ‘I’m sorry.’ – But until he personally directs his apology to the president, his words will do very little to rectify the harm he has caused.

Yossi Azose
West Hempstead, NY

Dangerous Approach?

In her front-page essay ‘Forever in Awe’ (Sept. 17), Rachel Weiss cited a Rosh Hashanah machzor to support her contention that “Neither the guidance of Vice President Cheney nor the fervor of President Bush topples evil dictators in faraway lands. They but carry out the will of G-d.”

Couldn’t precisely the same logic be used to justify Hitler’s extermination of the Jews?

Notwithstanding her good intentions, Ms. Weiss’s approach to international relations strikes me as dangerous and, more than that, antithetical to the Jewish tradition as a whole which, as best as I can tell, accentuates the deeds of men over the (ultimately unknowable) will of God.

Much less morally ambiguous to me is the injunction of R. Abbahu to be “rather of the
persecuted than of the persecutors.” But perhaps he was a “left liberal” too?

Deborah Diamond
(Via E-Mail)

In Awe Of Ms. Weiss

I was thrilled to see the work of Rachel Weiss once again grace the front and back pages of The Jewish Press. Her beautiful article on Rosh Hashanah was appropriate, insightful and enlightening, as are all her articles on the yom tovim.

With words eloquent and deep, she described this holy day in a manner that made me proud to belong to such a great nation as Klal Yisrael. I would like to wish Ms. Weiss and her family a g’mar chasima tova. She is a true asset to The Jewish Press, and I am “Forever in Awe.” Keep the articles coming.

Rose Bernath
(Via E-Mail)

Dems Reward Bigotry

Re the pro-Kerry op-ed column by Richard Schwartz (The Case for Kerry, – Sept. 10):

There is an old parable about a horse who was told he’d be given a million dollars if he allowed his head to be chopped off. To this the horse replied, ‘If you cut off my head, what will I do with a million dollars?’

John Kerry and the Democrats honored Al Sharpton, the bigot best known for his role in the
Tawana Brawley hoax and the Crown Heights pogrom. What good is any of the items mentioned by Mr. Schwartz when stacked up against the rewarding of bigotry?

When Rudy Giuliani was mayor, he never recognized Sharpton. Giuliani is a true man of
principle. Kerry, in contrast, will do or say whatever he thinks is beneficial to his political career.

The Lercher Family
Brooklyn, NY

In Defense Of Bush

Richard Schwartz claims that President Bush’s positions are ‘inconsistent with basic Jewish values and interests.’ He starts off saying that Jews are partners with Hashem when it comes to taking care of the environment. But aren’t Kerry’s pro-choice and pro-gay rights positions more inconsistent with Torah values than Bush’s stance on the environment?

Professor Schwartz goes on to write that Judaism stresses that wise people consider the effect their actions will have on future generations, and that President Bush has ignored global climate changes that may pose future threats to humanity. But why should President Bush be bothered with something that may or may not come to pass hundreds or even thousands of years from now, when the threat of terrorism is so real in out own time. Perhaps we should take care of that threat first in order to ensure that there are future generations.

Professor Schwartz claims we converted universal support into unprecedented hatred and mistrust by invading Iraq. This point is easily refuted by the number of allies fighting with us.

Professor Schwartz also attacks the loss of jobs during the Bush presidency. But Bush inherited a recession that began while Clinton was still in office, and of course the 9/11 attacks delivered a further blow to the economy.

Toward the end of his piece, Professor Schwartz says the Democratic platform is extremely supportive of Israel. But in his acceptance speech at his party’s convention, Kerry did not even mention Israel. Bush, in his acceptance speech, referred to ‘our good friend Israel.’

The next time Professor Schwartz decides to write a political article he should check his facts first, so that a seventeen year old doesn’t have to correct him.

Rachel Diskind
Brooklyn, NY

Slandering The Settlers

In his Daily News column of September 19 (‘Under Fire’), Zev Chafets described Jews opposed to the withdrawal plan as “Al Qaeda in yarmulkes.” This strongly shook me because it crossed the line from constructive criticism to ignorant smear tactics.

He justified his claim by stating that these young settlers wish to “replace Israeli democracy with theocracy,” in the style of Al Qaeda. This is untrue. While the settlers certainly wish to see a Third Temple ultimately built and a theocratic society of kohanim ushered in, at this time their goals are not as lofty. Right now, their only realistic goal is that of saving their beloved homes from being demolished by Sharon and his undemocratic plan.

Most of the settlers I’ve met believe in democracy and don’t fit the media’s portrayal of violent,
uneducated brutes – the kind of stereotype Chafets and Sharon continue to promote.

Sergio Kadinsky
Forest Hills, NY

Open Letter To The Boro Park Jewish Community

As this is a time for introspection, I am asking you to think seriously about the following scenario.

You have a neighbor who lives a few doors down, whom you see occasionally. You don’t know his/her name but since he/she is an obvious landsman and lives on your block, you occasionally wave. You have never spoken to this individual and it is not likely you ever will, and you will most assuredly not have him/her over for a Shabbat meal.

What if I tell you that this individual was murdered by a thug right outside his/her home? Shot in cold blood with no justification? What would you do? I presume you would go to the police. You probably would organize a block watch. You would collectively offer a reward to catch the perpetrator. The rabbinical community would meet with politicians to discuss this tragedy. The lay leaders would strut in the street denouncing the violence. You would, as a community, attempt to locate any witnesses to this heinous crime.

I think all of the above are viable and logical approaches to take.


On August 30, 1999, a young man by the name of Gary (Gidone) Busch was shot dead in cold blood by the NYPD in Boro Park. He was, in fact, shot 12 times at close range. What did you do? What did the Boro Park Jewish community do?

We know what you did not do. You did not go to the police hierarchy. You did not organize a
block watch to see what could be done. You did not collectively offer money to the family to assist them through the expensive trial and hearings. The rabbinical community did not meet with politicians to discuss the tragedy. In fact, the rabbinical body thwarted any response by its own lack of response. The lay leaders did not strut in the street denouncing the violence. To add further insult to injury, witnesses either had to be subpoenaed or ran away to Lakewood. What happened to the Torah verse of ”Lo samod al dam rayecha”?

Gary (Gidone) Busch was murdered a number of times that day. First by the police, then again by a smear campaign, and lastly by the Jewish community of Boro Park which let him and his
family hang out to dry.

Well, I am done browbeating. I apologize if I have offended anyone.

As this is a month conducive to teshuva, G-d has given us another chance.

Last November, the police and the city were vindicated of any wrongdoing. But on September 9, only a couple of weeks ago, an honorable judge granted a new trial. In his words ”permitting the verdict to stand would result in a miscarriage of justice.”

This time, I hope the community does the right thing. I hope that instead of putting its
communal head in the sand, it stretches its neck to find ways to help the family and all who seek justice.

Rabbis, leaders, politicians, fellow Yidden: Gevald! A Yid was murdered. Don’t waste any
more time. Locate the witnesses and force them to testify. Let the police know that we are not stupid cattle. Go to the trial and make your presence felt. Organize a memorial for this man. Do what you can.

Finally, I believe the entire community owes the family an apology for the apathy that was
rampant. I would like to publicly thank Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Representative
Jerrold Nadler for doing the right thing.

In case you are curious as to the origin of my passion, I am the Busch family rabbi, and I have
lived with their pain close to my heart since Gidone’s murder.

A gut yor.

Rabbi Yackov Saacks
Dix Hills, NY

Letters to the Editor

Title: Why Lincoln Matters

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Title: Why Lincoln Matters
Author: Mario M. Cuomo
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc., New York, N.Y.


If the title suggests that this is a book about Abraham Lincoln – you’ve been tricked!

The book is really about attacking President George W. Bush, and Mario Cuomo, now political philosopher to the Democratic party, utilizes an analysis of the writings and history of our sixteenth president in comparison with our current office holder to reveal, in Cuomo’s opinion, his ineffectiveness.

The former three-term New York State governor claims that on every one of the big issues, such as equality, multilaterism, role of government, war and peace and the responsibilities of the fortunate few, the current Republican administration is lacking in adherence to the principles set forth by the first Republican president. He claims that the current situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Terrorism are all shadowy wars, that there is increasing
inequality in our society among whites and ethnic minorities, and that there is a lack of vision in the nation’s leadership.

Much of the book deals with issues that are too current to confirm. Governor Cuomo claims that the tenure of President Bush has so far recorded the worst job creation performance in modern history, and that although the administration “brags” that most American’s have become stockholders in American industry, most only own a few thousand dollars worth of securities and the majority is held in the hands of just the few.

The current president is lauded as a “born-again Christian,” and is noted for freely quoting Scripture (most notably – the New Testament), as did President Lincoln – who, although he enjoyed a well-worded sermon, is frequently thought to have been an agnostic. Both in his speeches and in his written correspondence Lincoln freely referred to “the deity,” although he himself was never a formal member of a church. In Why Lincoln Matters Cuomo relates
that when President Lincoln did attend church services he almost invariably sat in the minister’s study and listened with the door ajar rather sit with his wife in the family pew. He didn’t wish to be seen as a member of organized religion.

Both men were believers in fairness – Lincoln reversed anti-Semitic decisions of General Ulysses Grant to eliminate Jewish vendors from selling to Union forces, and President Bush has become quite well-known for his philo-Semitic attitude. These policies also extended to members of other faiths as well.

The book calls attention to the economic successes of the prior Clinton administration, to which the current Bush administration is heir, and compares current, Republican, economic and social policies with those of prior Democrat administrations – negatively.

All political ideas deserve free expression in a democracy, but this is a book attacking President Bush disguised as a book about Abraham Lincoln. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the findings of Governor Cuomo, we believe in “truth in advertising,” and Why Lincoln Matters should have been titled: Why You Shouldn’t Vote For Bush.

Aharon Ben Anshel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-why-lincoln-matters/2004/08/04/

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