George Rubin’s letter last week (“Second Term For W?”) responding to Craig Bergman (“Don’t Prove Baker Right,” Letters, October 31) was way off the mark. I was taken with the Bergman letter’s reasoned appeal to Jewish voters to abandon their blind obeisance to the Democratic Party. He did not, as Rubin charged, call on the Jewish community “to automatically support President Bush.” All he suggested was that American Jews give due
weight to the extraordinary support President Bush has given Israel.
Actually, I would personally have gone further than Bergman, given the dreadful record of the Clinton years. Does anyone really think that President Clinton was a stronger supporter of Israel than Bush has proven to be? How could anyone argue that Israel would be in a better position today had Al Gore been elected president?
True, as Rubin writes, President Bush has refused to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and supports a Palestinian state. But Bill Clinton followed the same policies and actively pressured Israel to relinquish a good part “of its historic homeland,” something Bush has not done.
As for Rubin’s claim that President Bush is not allowing Israel to defend its citizens, he has to be kidding. What about Bush’s constant comment that Israel has the right to defend itself? It was President Clinton’s ramming Oslo down Israel’s throat that he should be criticizing. Oslo insisted on Israeli concessions without the elimination of terror. On the other hand, the “road
map” requires the elimination of Hamas as a precondition to moving toward a Palestinian state.
New York, NY
Ditto On Bush
I intend to vote for George W. Bush next year no matter whom the Democratic nominee turns out to be, because of Bush?s Middle East policy. I don’t see how anyone concerned for the safety of Israel could imagine any one of the current Democratic presidential hopefuls improving on Mr. Bush’s rock solid support for Israel and its efforts to combat terrorism.
Having said this, I do agree with George Rubin’s criticism of Bush’s refusal to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Yes, it is largely symbolic, and it certainly not as significant an issue now as it was when President Clinton was dumping all over Israel. However, symbolism is still important and, after all, the relocation of the embassy is U.S. law.
More troublesome is Bush’s support of a Palestinian state. He is the first American president to explicitly call for a Palestinian state even before negotiations begin. However, a Palestinian state has certainly been implicit in the policy of every American presidents since the 1970′s – at least Bush has effectively conditioned it on iron-clad guarantees of security for Israel.
Where Am I?
In defense of those whose behavior Beth Schindelman (Letters, Nov. 7) found deplorable at a Sukkos concert: Perhaps they mistakenly thought they were at a wedding. At a number of weddings I’ve attended in the last few years, I mistakenly thought I was at a concert.
No Jewish Hero
I read with interest Arnold Fine’s “American Jewish Military Heroes” in the Nov. 14 issue of your excellent newspaper. I think it’s important to point out to the Jewish public that there have always been Jews who fought for the United States and that many rose to high positions in the armed forces.
On the other hand, a paper such as The Jewish Press, which serves the Orthodox community, must be careful as to whom to include in articles about Jewish heroes. Mr. Fine includes Maj. General Maurice Rose as a Jewish military hero. While Gen. Rose was born Jewish (his father was a leading Jewish layman in Denver), it is now generally accepted that Gen. Rose chose
to hide his Jewish background. And though it seems he did not undergo a conversion ceremony to Christianity, he listed that religion as his faith on all his army paperwork. Both his marriages were to non-Jewish partners, and he is buried underneath a cross in Europe. This man is hardly a Jewish hero!
An excellent new biography of Gen. Rose by Steven Ossad and Don Marsh discusses this aspect of Rose’s life.
Mendel Gottesman Library
Distressed By Infertility Coverage
I am greatly disappointed that The Jewish Press has chosen to address the problem of infertility by regularly featuring the “Puah” column. What bothers me is the simplistic manner in which the problem is portrayed. Believe me, it isn’t so easy. If this column is meant to raise the awareness of the community, why isn’t it more honest? Not everybody becomes pregnant
by going to Puah, I assure you.
How about discussing the emotional roller coaster infertile couples ride every day? How our lives revolve around injections, painful procedures and intense decision-making? How we need our families to respect our privacy and love us anyway?
Infertility is a very hard nisayon. Unfortunately, it is a publicly known nisayon because we can’t hide the reality that we don’t have children. And that makes it more difficult, because we are constantly getting people’s unsolicited opinions and rude comments - not to mention “hellos” to our stomachs, not our faces.
I would like to see The Jewish Press invite groups like ATIME and Bonai Olam to participate in your columns so that klal Yisrael can become more sensitive to this heart-wrenching situation.
EDITOR’S RESPONSE: We fully understand – and are sympathetic to – the concerns you raise. The decision to feature positive stories was an editorial one on our part, made in the hope of offering encouragement to infertile couples. We have asked other organizations to participate in our growing coverage of infertility in the Jewish community, and hope to begin including their input shortly. And we invite readers to write us about their experiences, good and bad, for possible publication.
Mitzvot At The Expense Of Others
The beautifully written ‘On Our Own’ column by Cheryl Kupfer in the Oct. 31 issue of The Jewish Press touched upon some profound thoughts about collective ethics, responsibility, dignity and integrity. What does the Almighty really expect of us? He expects us, as individuals and as collective members of the community, to do mitzvot and behave in accordance with
If the Jewish community is to be collectively judged on Rosh Hashanah, the community then has an obligation to optimize “community mitzvot.” These are maximized when everyone is engaged in an activity to benefit his or her family and benefit the community. This does not include performing a mitzvah at someone else’s expense, nor does it include having exorbitant
weddings to display affluence while Jewish institutions are in need.
Adults have a role to play in accordance with their innate ability and education, which includes time to learn Torah - but only after they provide for their own parnossah. Having women work at multiple jobs, with young children at home in their care, while their husbands sit and learn all day and live on charity or support from grandparents is doing a mitzvah at someone else’s expense. Not everyone is an illui or talmid chacham.
Persons gifted with a Torah mind and having the right midot deserve support by the community because they will learn and teach from the roots of our faith. Others gifted in other endeavors have an obligation to improve themselves and prepare to participate in the secular commercial society in order to engage in a livelihood to support their families and community
institutions without expecting assistance from others.
I do not chose professional services because the practitioner has completed shas three times. I choose on the basis of competence and reputation and sometimes price. An individual has the obligation to be the best he or she can be in the service of the community and to serve the community ethically and responsibly. In this way we can maximize “community mitzvot” and
enhance a Torah environment by supporting our own families rather than burdening the grandparents, giving tzedakah that we have earned ourselves, and supporting those gifted individuals who will teach Torah to the next generation.
A Way For Singles To Meet
I’m a single who became Torah observant several years ago while in my late 30s, after unfortunately paying almost no attention to Yiddishkeit. So though I’m in no position to offer any advice or criticism regarding the present singles dilemma, there is one very simple potential solution that I haven’t come across: I have not heard of anyone designating one of the evenings of shevah brachos for inviting primarily (though not exclusively) single friends.
I can’t think of any downside to this, and if finances are a concern I imagine that most of the singles themselves would be more than glad to cover their cost. Having a shadchan on hand to facilitate introductions would also be very helpful.
Dr. Stern Misses The Mark
I think that Dr. Stern incorrectly assumes all singles have dozens of dates and many options as to whom they meet, and therefore anyone who is still single must be so by his or her own doing. There are many singles that do not have all those options. While the shidduch clubs that he mentions are an excellent idea, the fact is that a lot more is talked about than done, and very few people are actually set up by them. Not to mention that most of the ideas that come out of these shidduch meetings are nothing more than wild guesses from people who have little experience in matching people up.
Shadchanim are blessed with abundant lists of girls’ names, but with just a handful of boys’ names, so it is hard for them to actually set anyone up. In the yeshivish communities, singles events, mixers and Shabattons are non existent. The shidduch system basically leaves us begging for suggestions from everyone we know, and even from people we don’t know, and then waiting for the phone to ring.
Dr. Stern’s assessment of the situation stems from his obvious misunderstanding of the problem.
I think I represent several hundred, if not several thousand, readers when I respectfully request that you stop printing the back-and-forth between Dr. Stern and the host of singles and other readers who take issue with his assertions.
The exchanges in your Letters section have become impossible to follow. It’s like a tennis match, only each player hits the ball once a week. By the time the third or fourth volley is exchanged, nobody remembers the minutiae of a letter printed last month. To read a letter in which someone refers to specific passages in previous letters – which themselves were written in response to previous letters – leaves this reader (and many others, I’m sure) impatient, frustrated, and lost. I don’t have enough room on my coffee table to keep the last five issues of the paper on hand for reference.
If someone expresses an opinion in a letter to the editor, other readers have every right to respond. But the original writer need not respond to the response. Trading counter-arguments works in a debate format, not in a weekly publication.
Is The Jewish Press Proud Of Naomi Ragen?
I count myself as an opponent of many of Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller’s views on Israel and
the Middle East. But I am afraid that some Jews, like Naomi Ragen (“Is Richard Joel Still ‘Proud’ of Chaim Seidler-Feller?” Jewish Press, Nov. 14), who share my political views have crossed the line and are committing a terrible averah (sin), not only against Rabbi Seidler-Feller, but against the Jewish people.
As a member of the ‘Jewish right-of-center,’ I am sickened by the need of those with whom I
agree politically to resort to hateful speech and character assassination against their political
opponents. These attempts to dehumanize opponents (and, yes, it happens on the left, too) not
only represents the worst sort of lashon hara, but they weaken the credibility of our political
First, Ms. Ragen shamelessly attacks Rabbi Seidler-Feller as a Jew, mostly with hearsay and
innuendo (most of it untrue, but that is for another letter). I have known him for 15 years, so let me tell you some things about him:
He is a deeply committed and learned Orthodox Jew.
Zionism has been part of his self-definition his whole life. (If you knew his parents, you would
know what I mean).
He visits Israel at least twice a year, rarely to engage in any political activity, but rather to study Jewish texts and visit his family there.
He speaks Hebrew exclusively in his home to his children, so that they will grow not only to love Israel, but to feel comfortable being and living there.
While he has provided forums to Palestinian spokespeople, whom I detest, he has also provided a platform for the likes of Yoram Hazony, Dennis Prager, Shlomo Riskin and Alan Dershowitz - all prominent defenders of Israel.
He has led hundreds of college students to Israel on birthright programs, even during the
worst of times.
He has brought thousands of Jewish kids back to their Jewish roots as the UCLA Hillel director, many of whom also disagree with his political views.
He is about the most gentle person I have ever met.
None of the above excuses the widely-reported violent action toward Ms. Neuwirth. But a couple of items about the incident need to be made known in any fair account of the incident (Ms. Ragen insists that she “likes to be fair” – especially with another Jew):
Seidler-Feller was not chatting with the Palestinian protesters; he had approached them in
order to challenge them (“What do you mean Zionism equals racism?”).
The “upcoming event with Sari Nusseibeh” that he was discussing with them (which Ms.
Neuwirth felt compelled to disrupt) was in fact a dialogue with Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet – a fact that Ms. Ragen conveniently omitted (I suspect that she and Ms. Neuwirth consider Ayalon, and the other three former Shin Bet directors who disagree with them, “capos” as well).
Eyewitnesses with whom I have spoken (in her quest for “fairness” did Ms. Ragen speak to any witnesses?) have told me that Ms. Neuwirth, who has previously harassed the rabbi, inserted herself in this discussion shouting invectives at him – including “You are worse than a capo!” At that point, Seidler-Feller reacted physically.
“Capo!” Is there anything more hateful that one Jew can call another? Do you think Ms.
Neuwirth knew (did Ms. Ragen know?) that Seidler-Feller lost grandparents in the Shoah?
(Can you imagine how deeply this has affected his psyche?) Do you think that Ms. Neuwirth realized (does Ms. Ragen realize?) that, in Israel, calling a Jew a “capo” is considered “hate speech,” punishable as a felony in its own right? Among those who have piled on to Rabbi Seidler-Feller, including Ms. Ragen, where is their outrage about what this woman screamed?
The fact is, both parties probably share blame in this matter. (The L.A. city attorney seems to
agree, since he is sending them both to an anger management course.) Several news reports have stated, however, that Seidler-Feller has repeatedly attempted to apologize to Ms. Neuwirth. But Ms. Neuwirth refuses to accept his apology or to accept responsibility in her own right – a fact that Ms. Ragen fails to mention. She - and others like Ms. Ragen – would rather exploit the incident, not only to silence Rabbi Seidler-Feller, but to destroy him and his family.
Rabbi Seidler-Feller’s political views are certainly the subject of fair criticism. And his
physical reaction to Ms. Neuwirth’s taunts cannot be defended. But much of the invective, including Ms. Ragen’s, that has been spewed at the rabbi’s expense represents the worst form of lashon hara, and only contributes to sinat chinam that our people can little afford today.
“I was one of those awful people who shouted at Yitzhak Rabin and called him a traitor. I stood behind the barricades, held up my placard and screamed: ‘Boged.’ … [A year later] I sat down on the cold stone fence opposite his grave, and I thought: The dead can’t hear our pleas for forgiveness or see our tears, only the living. And when I finally got up to face a day of fasting, prayer and hope for atonement, I understood for the first time the devastating finality of the words ‘too late.’ “
Those words were written by Naomi Ragen in 1996 (still published on her website,
www.naomiragen.com). It is too bad she has not learned her own lesson.
New York, NY
Editor’s Note: Mr. Eisner is a Jewish activist and the CEO of a financial services
technology company in Manhattan.
The Problem With Brooklyn Joe’s Views
I grant Joseph and Hadassah Lieberman of Brooklyn their socially conservative viewpoints
(“Brooklyn’s Joe Lieberman Answers a Skeptic,” Letters, Nov. 14), but I must say that I believe there is a difference between how a person votes in the Congress and his personal social outlook. There are those of us like myself who do not believe government should be in the business of legislating morality.
Abortion offers a good example of why legislating morality is a problem. I don’t believe abortion is the right or moral option but neither do I believe that the government should make that decision for others. There are, in fact, significant differences between Christian and Jewish views on abortion, and Christian conservatives would, as they have with the new partial-birth abortion ban, likely not make an exception for instances in which the life of the mother is in danger, at odds with most rabbinical authorities.
The point is not to make a case for abortion but simply to say that because there is not, in fact,
a common view on the issue, it is better left to individual choice, just like religion itself. Joseph
and Hadassah can still promote their views on abortion in any way they want, by picketing
abortion clinics, publishing books, or speaking to expectant mothers about adoption (probably the best option). Much the same argument applies to those who would outlaw all pornography; can Joseph draw a universal distinction between what is pornography and what is art? Perhaps in his own mind he can. But why should everyone else be forced to conclude exactly as he does?
Where exactly does the legislation of morality end? Would Joseph favor restriction on free speech as an attempt to stamp out lashon hara? Do those of us who would oppose such restriction help to promote lashon hara?
Social conservatives often mistake principled opposition by conflating those who oppose
legislating morality with those who favor committing the perceived immoral acts. Being
pro-choice is equated with being pro-abortion. A vote against outlawing pornography is cast as evidence that a legislator promotes pornography, an especially bizarre charge to throw at Senator Lieberman, since he has been at the forefront of the movement against movies with graphic sex and violence and obscene music lyrics.
A vote against public display of the Ten Commandments (an issue on which many conservatives agree with liberals) is cast as a vote for atheism. And when it is cast in terms of party politics, it is hypocritical, because there are certainly many immoral practices conservative Republicans would not legislate against when it is clear that legislation could make a difference. One need look no further than the links between Republicans and companies like Enron, who used the tax loopholes and corporate welfare favored by most Republicans to cheat their employees out of billions.
History is replete with attempts to legislate morality that have often been abject failures.
Prohibition was the most infamous example. Many drug laws are also failures, which, rather than setting a moral tone, simply clog up the judicial system or encourage teenagers to rebel. The effect of morality legislation is often to make certain immoral behavior more desirable among those resentful of being forced to act in a certain way when they would, perhaps, be less resentful and more amenable to moral action if they were the ones making the choice.
The founding fathers who wrote the First Amendment were certainly not promoters of vice,
but they understood that the freedoms of expression, speech and religion were intrinsic to
free and open society. No one is keeping Joseph and Hadassah of Brooklyn from living their lives, speaking their minds, or raising their children as they see fit. But if they insist on forcing their social views on others through legislation, there may well come a day when their ability to make those choices is inhibited.
Michael L. Brenner
New York, NY