Supports Bush, But Criticism OK
I agree with Assemblyman Dov Hikind that George W. Bush seems the best choice for the Jewish community (“No Choice But Bush, op-ed, Jan. 23). I do think, however, that Hikind presents a rather simplistic critique of the Democratic candidates’ campaign statements. After all, while it’s true that we are at war, it’s equally true that we are in the midst of an election campaign, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for a public official to act as if all criticism of an incumbent is off limits.
New York, NY
Hakaras Hatov And The President
President Bush and leading members of the Republican party have publicly demonstrated their support for our beleaguered brethren in Eretz Yisrael in numerous ways. When leaders from
around the world were criticizing the Israelis for attempting to defend themselves against the terrorist bombings, President Bush stated unequivocally that the Israelis have the right to do so. While the leaders of Europe were embracing Yasir Arafat and his evil minions, President Bush was shunning them and having Ariel Sharon as an honored guest in the White House on several occasions.
President Bush led the war in Iraq which has removed not only a major funding source for the suicide attacks in Israel but has also eliminated one of the major strategic threats to the existence of Jews in Eretz Yisrael. All of this in the face of unrelenting, hateful rhetoric from world leaders, the Left, and many in the Democratic party.
We Jews owe it to President Bush to demonstrate our hakaras hatov and appreciation for his having the guts to fight for what is right, despite the continuous condemnation and criticism from the likes of George Soros. Might I suggest that each of us individually contribute some money to the Bush/Cheney reelection campaign and to the Republican National Committee? Perhaps if enough of us do, it will show that despite recent polls to the contrary, many Jews support our president and appreciate what he has done.
Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Democrat
The Democrats continue their attempts to paint President Bush as a liar because he told the nation Iraq was amassing weapons of mass destruction. The leading Democratic candidates
were saying the same thing, though, as a perceptive reader pointed out in last week’s Letters section. Here are some quotes I’ve dug up:
John Kerry, Oct. 2002: “Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try?… According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons… Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents…”
Wesley Clark, April, 2002: “He [Hussein] does have weapons of mass destruction… I think they will be found. There’s so much intelligence on this.”
Howard Dean, March 2003: “[We] have never been in doubt about the evil of Saddam Hussein or the necessity of removing his weapons of mass destruction.”
Joseph Lieberman, Aug., 2002: “Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.”
John Edwards, Oct., 2002: “We know that he [Hussein] has chemical and biological weapons.”
Thumbs Down On Sharon
Ariel Sharon has turned Israel into a tragi-comedy. He has surrendered Israel’s national sovereignty and does not make a move without getting the approval of the State Department and the White House. More Jews have been murdered under Sharon’s rule than under any previous prime minister. His ”security” fence is reducing Israel to a nine-mile wide coastal ghetto and will protect Israel as well as the Maginot Line protected France in 1940.
Instead of ordering his armed forces to defeat the far weaker PLO and the other terror gangs, Sharon releases terrorists and asks the PLO to resume ”negotiations” [i.e. Israel gives away its
land in exchange for more worthless promises]. Ten years after Oslo, with a record of 100 percent non-compliance by the PLO and thousands of murdered and permanently disabled Jews, Sharon, unbelievably, tells the Palestinians that if they do not resume negotiations he will unilaterally move back Israel’s borders and create a PLO state in the Jewish historic heartland of Judea and Samaria. He threatens also to forcibly evacuate the Jews living there or abandon them to be driven out or killed by terrorists.
Like all of the post-Oslo prime ministers, Sharon demonstrates callous disdain for the lives of his people and the land of his nation that is not his to give away. The damage that Sharon’s
appeasement policies have caused to the economy and to Israel’s civilian and military morale cannot be sustained and could prove fatal to the nation if continued much longer.
George E. Rubin
There is a long, long trail of concessions that stretches from Madrid to Oslo and from Oslo to Geneva. In 1991, as you may recall, the PLO came to the Madrid Peace Conference as an
adjunct to the Jordanian delegation. Today, 13 or so years later, they stand on the threshold of statehood. During those 13 years, the Palestinians have managed to turn every Israeli concession into an abject confessional. Of this we can be certain: as long as the concessions keep coming, as long as the Arab reading of history is left unexamined, all of our expectations about peace and reconciliation are destined to become the source of our sorrows and the vessel of our discontent.
For the Palestinians, some issues have become more equal than others. Checkpoints and refugees have, for example, become derivative issues. Their more sanctimonious sophistries have been reserved for the ”occupation.” It is the occupation that justifies the murderous excesses of the intifada. And it is their constant weeping and wailing about the occupation that has muzzled every hint of an Israeli past. This denial of our past, of our identity, prefigures a far graver denial: our very right to exist.
With a little understanding, the Arab world could easily turn this all around. They could begin with a rather modest gesture. For example, accepting the authenticity of our history could be
such a beginning. In deference to that history they might even want to consider an extraterritorial arrangement for some of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. That would not be such an extraordinary development. There are precedents. After the Six Day War, the Palestinians were given de facto control of the Temple Mount. And in Hebron, they continue to have equal access to the Machpela.
But there is an even more compelling reason to expect a little give-and-take from our Arab adversaries. Judea and Samaria were supposed to be our inheritance until the last wrinkle of time. The Arab world can therefore take some comfort in the fact that the retention of what is ours hardly constitutes the acquisition of what is theirs.
There is a rather conspicuous statistic that goes to the heart of this question. Israelis actually reside on a relatively small fraction of Judea and Samaria – less than two percent. The
Palestinians will in all likelihood reject any arrangement that would leave the Israelis with even a snippet of their biblical heartland. If it turns out that two percent is too much for them, then 98 percent should be too much for us
Silver Spring, MD
The Insurers’ Perspective
Re: Redlining Travel To Israel (news story, Jan. 23):
While I recognize that travel to Israel by Americans may be restrained by insurance companies using such travel as a reason to deny insurance, why should insurers be forced to insure travel
to dangerous areas? Doesn’t that increase premiums for all insured?
The Public’s Perspective
I too was turned down for insurance because I traveled to Israel. What was most infuriating was that I could not get anyone to talk to me about it. They were not even interested in whether I planned to go to Israel again. Even if the entire Middle East is considered a high risk area, I wonder if past travel to other countries is an automatic disqualifier.
New York, NY
Only In Israel
I just returned from a memorable month’s visit to Israel. The following incident should encourage those who have not already done so to go see for themselves why Israel is so special.
My grandson, who is studying this year at a yeshiva in Israel, joined us for a wonderful Shabbos at a hotel in Jerusalem. After Shabbos was over, he took the bus back to his school in Gush Etzion. Shortly after leaving the bus, he realized that he had left his cell phone on his seat. He dialed his phone, and, finally, the bus driver answered. The driver asked my grandson where he was, and then told him that since he, the driver, was still in the Gush Etzion area and had completed his route, if my grandson would just wait where he was, he would bring him his phone – which he did.
Perhaps a bus driver in another country would do the same, but somehow I doubt it.
I enjoyed reading Chanaya Weissman’s Jan. 16 op-ed on the dos and don’ts of setting singles up (“So You Want To Be A Shadchan?”) I think his assessment of the current shidduch
situation is right on target. Unfortunately, many of those who are not acquainted with the shidduch system assume that because there is so much discussion on the “singles crises” and so many shidduch clubs and shadchanim trying to help, anyone who is still single must be so by his or her own doing.
What they do not realize is that a few haphazard attempts at lumping people together based on the a scant profile written on an index card is only a tiny step – and one that might actually
cause more harm than good. No matter how intuitive the so-called shadchan is, the best she can do under these circumstances is to take wild guesses.
The bottom line is that any shidduch that is actually made under these circumstances is probably nothing less than a miracle from above. Luckily, G-d makes miracles, and many actually do find their mate in this system.
Readers Leap To Rabbi Levin’s Defense
Perception And Reality
Mr. Leib Stone argues in his letter to the editor (Jewish Press, Jan. 23) that the morality
issues that Rabbi Yehuda Levin focused on in his ”Orthodox Hellenism 5764” op-ed piece of Dec. 26 were not of ”top” priority for our gedolim of yesteryear.
Has it ever occurred to Mr. Stone, and those of like mind, that the phenomenal success of the
militant gay rights movement just might have been significantly enabled by the perceived ”low
priority” that leaders in our frum community have attached to issues of morality?
Shlomo D. Winter
Dismayed By Attack On Rabbi Levin
Very few letters to The Jewish Press have been more dismaying than the one last week by
Leib Stone entitled ”Torah Diplomacy” wherein he castigated Rabbi Yehuda Levin for being
”intellectually dishonest” and a ”one issue man.”
Mr. Stone may be analogized to some of the roshei yeshiva in pre-war Europe who, despite
warnings by some Jewish leaders such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, chose to ignore the storm clouds
gathering on the horizon. If anything is intellectually dishonest, it is the characterization by Mr. Stone of Rabbi Levin as a man with only one issue on his agenda. Even if this were so, Rabbi
Levin’s one issue, which is morality in accordance with the Torah, may well be the most important issue the world is currently facing.
Are Jews, according to Mr. Stone, supposed to remain complacent when they hear of a planned upcoming world meeting of homosexuals in Jerusalem just because the mayor of Jerusalem happens to be in touch with the posek hador? For all we know, they could be discussing plans to build a new central mikva somewhere in the Old City or some other important topic.
Mr. Stone conveniently ignores the most salient aspect of Rabbi Levin’s piece – that Rabbi
Levin, himself an Orthodox rabbi and a long time emissary of gedolim such as Rabbi Avigdor Miller and the Skulener Rebbe, was expressing righteous outrage for the holiest of purposes - the preservation of the sanctity of G-d’s holy city. Rabbi Miller, as I recall, did not hesitate to criticize Orthodox rabbis for their complacency regarding much less important issues, and I cannot imagine any gadol disagreeing with Rabbi Levin regarding the wake-up call he issued.
Finally, even if Mr. Stone’s generalization that ”all movements which veered away from the
true Torah path started by attacking our rabbanim” may indeed contain some truth, the fact
is that at a time when all of the kaytzim have already passed, our rabbis have still failed to lead
us back into the land of our forefathers as one united people. For this reason, it may even be dangerous for us to regard them as being above criticism.
Gedolim And Rabbi Levin
In Mr. Leib Stone’s response to Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s article, Stone disparagingly refers to Rabbi Levin as a “one issue man.”
I’m sure Rabbi Levin would cheerfully plead guilty to the charge. He has, in fact, spent a
quarter century on this single issue: The Torah response to the terrible decline in moral standards all around us. In this endeavor, he has been informed and guided by many of this generation’s acknowledged gedolei Yisrael. He has developed extensive contacts with like-minded religious gentiles, politicians and media all over America. Rabbi Levin has earned a doctorate in this “one issue”.
The whole tone of Mr. Stone’s letter (“the author has … attacked our rabbonim…) is
intellectually dishonest and demands a factual response.
Please allow me to relate some interesting facts about one of Rabbi Levin’s main mentors, the
much-revered Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l: In the 1930′s, when Rav Miller was studying in Lita, he
helped arrange visas to America for the Svei family, whose son, Rav Elya, later became one of
the roshei yeshiva Mr. Stone refers to in his letter.
In 1983 Rav Miller wrote a glowing testimonial and approbation regarding Rabbi Levin to Rav Svei, in which he declared that: “everything that he (Levin) speaks is (based) on what I have
discussed with him over a long period of time and there is much good contained in his advice.”
The late Debriciner Rav, zt”l, undoubtedly one of the foremost poskim of the last generation, wrote a two-page halachic responsum regarding Rabbi Levin’s fight for Torah morality, where he stated: “Halevai my portion (in the world to come) should be with him (Levin) and those who aid and support him”. Rav Stern, zt”l, explicitly mandated publicly opposing pro-homosexual agenda office holders.
The esteemed Rav of Kashau, shlita, a rosh yeshiva, rav, posek and author of works that are
studied in yeshivas worldwide, is one of today’s most revered gedolim. In a joint letter with the
Skulener Rebbe, shlita, written five years ago, he refers to Rabbi Levin’s 20 years of work as follows: “He is fighting Hashem’s fight against this evil movement.” He further declares that Rabbi Levin is a “Shlucha D’rabonon B’chol Asar V’asar” (an emissary of the sages where ever he appears”).
Rabbi Levin also has a responsum written for him by the late Rav S. Z. Braun, well-known posek and author of Shearim Metzuyanim B’halacha, mandating active and public opposition to politicians who support the deviancy agenda (even if they provide funds to our community).
During the hearings on the original “Gay Rights” law in New York City at the beginning of
the Koch Administration, Moreinu Horav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, issued a clear and unequivocal
written psak directing “all those who heed our words to fill the chambers of New York City Hall all the days of the hearing regarding homosexual legislation … to publicly demonstrate that
Hashem’s People loath abomination.” Rav Moshe’s declaration was a response to a letter sent to him jointly by Rav Miller and Rav Stern, zt”l.
Rav Moshe, zt”l, personally gave us a bracha, as he handed this letter-psak to us, and urged us to be strong in this struggle. Thus, we consider this a mandate from the posek hador. This is a remarkably strong and direct statement which neither Mr. Stone nor the bureaucracies he defends has yet been able to explain away. Rav Moshe indicated that he wasn’t satisfied with belated press releases or articles in Coalition Magazine. He wasn’t even happy with merely having a representative of Agudah or the Young Israel testify at the City Hall hearings. He wanted a multitude to fill the chambers.
Why didn’t Agudah send a few busloads of people to City Hall to heed the mandate of Rav
Moshe? Was it because Rav Moshe’s statement was not clear enough? Or was it because Rav Moshe wrote this particular psak on Agudas Harabanim stationery, and this was, somehow, construed to mean that he only meant this for members of that organization and not for followers of Agudah?
These quotations from acknowledged gedolim v’poskim of yesteryear are clearly the basis for
Rabbi Levin’s “agenda and tactics.” They indicate clearly that authentic Da’as Torah mandates that, when dealing with immorality, the opposition needs to be very public – we must make a Kiddush Hashem.
In view of these facts, how is it possible, Mr. Stone, that you should still be able to write that
“they (the gedolim) did not make this issue a priority?” For shame, Mr. Stone, and whoever you represent.
Since 1979 Rabbi Levin has been a spokesman on the moral issues for the Agudas
Harabanim and the Igud Harabanim, with a combined membership of over 1,200 rabbonim and including roshei yeshiva.
Among the ziknei Yisrael and distinguished rabbonim who either supported, blessed, or
encouraged Rabbi Levin’s activities were: Rav Yaakov Kamenecki, zt”l, the late Voideslover Rav, zt”l, Rav Moishe Bick, zt”l (who procured an absentee ballot to vote for Levin in the 1984 New York City mayoral election), Rav Shmelke Taubenfeld, zt”l, rav of Chareidim in Monsey, Rav Motel Weinberg, zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Montreal, and the late Rav Teitz, zt”l, of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
To disparage Rabbi Levin as a “one issue man” demonstrates that either the writer is woefully ignorant of the basic facts about Rabbi Levin or that he is willfully ignoring them.
Mr. Stone’s personal invective disparages major rabbinic groups and the thousands of
followers of Rav Moshe, Rav Miller, the Debreciner, and the many other gedolim who have publicly supported Rabbi Levin.
Many Bnai Torah are puzzled by the relative silence and total non-prioritization of this issue by
Agudah, O.U. and Young Israel.
Rabbi William Handler
Jews for Morality
What Did The Posek Hador Say?
I am amazed at Leib Stone’s naivete. He says “the mayor of Yerushalayim has the backing of and accessibility to the posek hador,” so “to attack the mayor [on the homosexual rights issue] without knowing the directive he has been given may be an attack on the posek hador and not something the author is qualified to do.”
Has anyone actually heard from the posek hador on the issue of anti-homosexual rights
activism? Do we know what the posek hador has directed? Obviously, even Stone is not sure when he fails to tell us what it is and speculates that an attack on the mayor may be an attack on the posek hador.
Rational criticism for not following our gedolim can only be based upon a clear and direct
statement from them about what they want. I for one will not accept the word of those who have n’gius, whether they are individuals or organizations.
As a Torah Jew, I can understand why homosexual conduct should be deplored and
discouraged. However, I cannot understand why homosexuals are not entitled to the full protections of civil law. After all, homosexuality is not a criminal offense and homosexuals are not exempt from paying taxes. How then can they logically be denied such things as access to housing and jobs?
Would anyone think that the police or fire departments should be able to refuse to respond to
calls for help from known homosexuals? Or that hospitals should not permit their admission? Or that insurance companies should be allowed to deny them insurance?
Posts Tagged ‘President Bush’
Supports Bush, But Criticism OK
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
Better Use For F-15s
The Sharon government was justifiably praised by Jewish commentators for the symbolic flyover by three IAF F-15s over Auschwitz recently.
Yet, these same commentators do not censure the same government for not utilizing these aircraft in the war against Arab terrorists. Instead of using these planes to pulverize manned terrorist strongholds and hiding places, as the U.S. did so effectively in Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel has its soldiers endanger their lives in ground assaults to eliminate and/or apprehend Arab terrorists (many of whom were recklessly released by the Israeli government as gestures of peace, only to kill again).
Such a policy is immoral and already responsible for the needless death and injury of too many IDF soldiers. As bereaved parents have charged, the Israeli government seems to be more concerned about the children of our enemies than about our own children.
Mr. Sharon, the precious soldiers of the IDF are not cannon fodder. This New Year, it is long past time for policy changes if you do not want to see regime change in Israel.
Henry J. Moscovic
New View Of Jews
I am a non-Jewish reader of the online edition of The Jewish Press. I was introduced to your
website about a year ago when I read an article from your newspaper that was posted on another website. A hyperlink was provided, so I clicked over to JewishPress.com and was instantly hooked.
To be perfectly honest, I’d always thought all Jews were liberal, secular agnostic types. I got that impression from seeing all the Jewish ACLU lawyers on TV fighting against any semblance of religion in the public sphere, and from reading about the leaders of all the radical, anti-family groups in the country – most of whom always seemed to have Jewish names.
The fact that Jews tend to support the most left-wing candidates in elections, both local and
national, was even more proof to me that today’s Jewish Americans had almost no connection to the biblical Nation of Israel and its G-d.
You can imagine, therefore, how surprised and pleased I was when I discovered The Jewish Press and realized that not all Jews support the agendas forced on the rest of the country by shrill feminists and stomach-turning gay activists.
I thank you and wish you much continued success in the year ahead.
Jason Maoz once again hit the nail right on the head with his scathing criticism of that bloated
blowhard Ted Kennedy (Media Monitor, Oct. 17). Only in America – or should I say only in Massachusetts – could such an embarrassment continue to be reelected time after time to the U.S. Senate, simply because his name is Kennedy.
I guarantee you that if Kennedy and his fellow Democrats were currently in charge in Washington, not only would Saddam Hussein still be in power, but al Qaeda would be in much stronger shape and the phony charity groups shut down by the Bush administration would still be very much in business raising funds for Muslim terrorists.
After all, look at how Kennedy and his comrades jumped to do the bidding of Islamist groups in the recent controversy over Daniel Pipes.
I have been in the business of security systems for the past 35 years and hold several patents for security systems licensed to such companies as Grumman and Lockheed.
I would like to suggest that no one in Israel be allowed to enter a bus or restaurant without removing his or her jacket or long coat. Since terrorists use robes or jackets to conceal numerous grenades, nails and explosives that kill men, women and children, forcing everyone to remove jackets and coats could save lives. It does not take very long to remove a jacket or coat, and it’s just as quick to put it back on once the check is completed.
If this could be mandated at public places, bus stops and pick up points throughout Israel, perhaps fewer lives would be snuffed out.
Small Act, Big Lesson
On Monday, October 13, we were recipients of an act of (roadside) kindness. I wish to publicly acknowledge that act not only as a thank you, but as an example of the beauty of our religion.
About 50 miles north of Baltimore (we were on a mission to visit the ill), a tire blew. Stopped on the shoulder of the Maryland Turnpike, we summoned help. Since time was important and the help was not yet there, I tried to flag down one of the many large trucks streaming past. None stopped. Subsequently assistance arrived in the form of a Maryland state trooper (whom we also want to thank).
Just as he began to work, a black sedan pulled up behind his. Out stepped two men in traditional black coats and hats. They said they stopped to see if we needed any assistance. We gave them a shalom aleichem and a hearty thank you. Since the state troopers were already there, they left.
This may seem like only a small act of kindness, but to me it is the type of thing that can inspire
more Jews to want to learn Torah and non-Jews to be appreciative of its merits.
Again, thank you to the two gentlemen.
Israeli Orthodox Also At Fault
True, the Orthodox community in Eretz Yisrael is facing serious problems. But Rabbi Menachem Porush (‘Orthodox Jewry, Where Are You?’ Jewish Press, October 17) is leading everyone astray. Many of the votes that Tommy Lapid’s party, Shinui, received were from voters who are very questionably Jewish. If Agudas Yisroel, Shas and Mizrachi (NRP) had pushed for ‘Mi Yehudi,’ those questionable Jews would not have been able to vote and Shinui would not have gained the number of seats they presently have.
Social services are also being denied to the Orthodox community. But again, if the religious parties has demanded the need for shlamus ha?eretz and not allowed the ‘land for peace’ initiatives to take hold, the IDF would have been able to defeat the terrorist organizations, tourism would have been productive for the country, and funding would have been available for the social services so desperately needed.
Rabbi Porush and the Orthodox community in Eretz Yisrael moan and groan and lift up their arms in despair – but they refuse to acknowledge that their own actions have contributed to these problems.
Pesach In Israel
Now that Sukkos is over, we will soon begin seeing a proliferation of advertisements for Pesach programs all over the world - sometimes in the most unlikely places.
I would urge Jewish Press readers to consider the ultimate destination for Pesach - Israel. The
hotel deals are great; they may not have 24-hour-a-day tea rooms, but the food at the Renaissance Hotel where we stayed last year would rival any hotel in the U.S. or elsewhere in terms of quality and quantity.
As for ‘entertainment’ - how about joining tens of thousands of your fellow Jews at the Kotel on chol hamoed for the birkat cohanim ? an unbelievable experience. How about a tiyul on chol hamoed to Sefat, the Galil, etc.
And how about considering Israel because your fellow Jew there who owns a store or works as a tour guide or a waiter needs your visit to feed his family for Pesach?
Leshanah haba’ah b?Yerushalayim.
Rhoda Vogel Wachsstock
Don’t Blame Orthodox Singles For Their Predicament
In your issue of Oct. 10 you published a letter from Dr. Yaakov Stern, who seems to think that we should continue to hide our heads in the sand about all the negative that is unfortunately in evidence when it comes to some shadchanim and the shidduch scene.
I say this because he wrote that he was tired of hearing complaints about “…unscrupulous
shadchanim and uncaring acquaintances who turn deaf ears to their (i.e. singles?) plight, but it is all a bunch of hooey.”
Dr. Stern also implies that since there are so many resources for singles to find dates and/or
potential mates, those who are still single must be so because they want to remain single. I must have missed the good news that klal Yisrael has overcome the shidduchim problems based on too much stress being placed on yichus, money, unwarranted prejudice against baalei teshuvah, geirim, and children of divorce, etc.
A bit of caution, Dr. Stern: saying “…it is all a bunch of hooey” sounds foolish, is ill considered,
and could make you sound like a kofer. Hashem still runs the world on a daily basis, and that
includes who meets whom, who gets married, and when it happens. It is all up to Him - and this could even explain why so many chasunas start late!
You should consider that in many cases, any given single’s ultimate shidduch is right around
the corner and Hashem just needs to work it out. Take a look at Midrash B’reishis 68:5 (according to the Judaic Classics Library Deluxe Edition); making shidduchim is what Hashem has been doing since He finished creating the world. For some singles their shidduch - like some letter writers - are a work in progress. Even if we don’t consider these basic emunah concepts, what about the well-known issue of tzadik v’ra lo (or tzadekes v’ra la for that matter)? Any given single may just not be responsible for his or her single status.
There are many fine people who deserve good shidduchim, but maybe Hashem feels they need to learn something, or do something (maybe even non-shidduch related issues) before they move on to the next stage of their lives. And there can be many other legitimate reasons why someone is still single in today’s Jewish society.
Finally, and most unfortunately, Dr. Stern seems to ignore the fact that his insensitive blanket statements can be so hurtful to people who have suffered so much in this parsha. Not to
mention the fact that his words make him sound like one of those uncaring people who turn a deaf ear to the plight of singles.
To finish on a constructive note, we need to pay attention to Rabbi Pesach Krohn’s advice – we need to make shidduchim that make sense.
Eliezer A. Weitz
I’m sure Dr. Stern meant well when he wrote his latest letter to The Jewish Press, but it was not well received. What I hope was intended to be helpful and inspiring came off as insulting and demeaning.
The accusation that “Any person trapped in the singles conundrum is there by his or her own
doing and can extricate himself or herself with the proper hishtadlus” denies on its face the role that Hashem plays in the parsha. Granted there are individuals who can be doing more to help
themselves, but there are those who are doing the best that they can do. When one puts in all of his hishtadlus but it still doesn’t work, as frum Jews we have only one answer – that it is ratzon Hashem and that He is providing the nisayon as a means for growth.
I wonder if Dr. Stern would use the same harsh rhetoric for those suffering with other problems. Would he tell the couple grappling with infertility (despite having consulted top doctors and undergone numerous expensive treatments) to stop crying and try harder? How about the cancer sufferer - is it his fault the chemotherapy isn’t working?
For some inexplicable reason society has deemed the hardship faced by single people to be
within their control to change. Unfortunately, that stereotype only serves to further degrade the
individuals and makes their nisayon that much harder. Yomim tovim are hard enough for single
people who cannot celebrate with their own spouse and children but instead must suffer in silence with a smile to the world as they celebrate again with their siblings’ or friends’ families.
The beginning of Sefer Shmuel teaches us about Shmuel’s mother, Chana, who was suffering
with infertility. Her sister Penina used a similar approach to Dr. Stern’s in order to facilitate Chana to daven harder. While in the end it helped Chana, Penina’s life took a tragic turn. We would all be better served if people like Dr. Stern would offer words of encouragement – and better yet, would step up to the plate and make shidduchim.
Stop Pointing Fingers
Dr. Stern should “Get with the program” and stop offering advice based on the “outdated
products of his life experiences.”
Anyone who pays close attention to his letter will notice that he contradicts himself. First he
says “the problem is definitely the singles,” and then he goes on about how a shadchan would try to dissuade a single who asked for what he or she really wanted. Bingo – that’s the problem, exactly by his own admission. We are dealing with a shidduch system in which honesty and openness are discouraged; in which shadchanim think they know what’s best for you better than you do and try to push you into situations that you know good and well are not for you at all.
To top it all off, we are told by the shadchanim and even total outsiders like Dr. Stern that we are being “picky” and it is our fault we are still single. The answer is for us to be honest? We
are trying to be honest ? isn?t anyone listening?
Instead of criticizing singles, Dr. Stern should be criticizing the sometimes well-meaning but
often obnoxious shadchanim on whom we must rely as the only vehicle to meet our soulmate. It is they who discourage honesty, twist facts to make things seem more appealing, and then accuse us of being picky precisely because we know what we do and don’t want. (‘So the girl is a foot taller, twice as wide, five years older, can’t read and thinks Alaska is a recipe? So what? She’ll still make a good chullent! Do you want to get married or not?’)
To point the finger at singles for this mess is to be downright insulting.
If people like Dr. Stern would stop pointing fingers and look at the system for what it is - a
fancy and time-consuming “pick a name from the hat” game – and instead come up with some
creative solutions, we would all be better off.
No Constructive Suggestions
I was appalled that The Jewish Press would print a hurtful, insulting and absurd letter like the
one from Dr. Stern. I think his assessment of the problem is not only totally inaccurate, but it clearly shows that he has not been involved in the shidduch system any time recently. There are thousand of singles, with very reasonable expectations, who have simply not yet met the
right one and putting the blame on us for our difficult situation is hurtful to all of us.
The way I see it, the problem is that people are being set up by complete strangers who are
putting them together based on guesswork. With this system it can take years to find the right one. To compound the problem, many people who had the good fortune of meeting their bashert on the first shot assume that it must have been their expertise and talent that made them find their mate so quickly. Instead of setting people up and offering assistance, they blame those who are still single.
I’m not really sure how Dr. Stern proposes to solve the singles problem. He hasn’t really made
clear how singles are supposed to find the person they seek once they determine what it is they’re looking for. As for his suggestion that those who only about beauty should be honest with themselves and just simply marry a pretty girl – well, I don’t know if that advice would help the singles rate, but it would certainly raise the divorce rate.
Readers Defend President Bush
Thank Your Lucky Stars
Reader Edward Horn’s harangue against President Bush (‘Big Bad Bush,’ Letters, Oct. 17) is reminiscent of the liberal pap about moral and political relativism that has brought our country to the point of disaster. Hasn’t 9/11 taught him anything? Nobody likes the unsettling idea that
the United States is as risk – far more than even at the time of the U.S./Soviet nuclear rivalry. In those years, there was at least a mutual deterrent effect. Now the U.S. is the target of those who have little to lose and are hard to apprehend.
President Bush is the first president who has refused to sweep things under the rug and leave
festering problems as a legacy for the next generation. September 11 came about because
prior presidents were not willing to face the growing problem of terrorism, despite the evidence.
Moreover, those who are concerned about Israel should thank their lucky stars that the
United States has a president who is not afraid to tell it like is - and act upon it.
New York, NY
Who Cares What The World Says?
It is amusing that Edward Horn is concerned that countries around the world consider the U.S. a rogue nation because President Bush prefers to act alone. As I see it, however, the world is mostly made up of those nations in Europe who are now in competition with the U.S. for dominance and who couldn’t resolve their problems and made the 20th century the bloodiest in history. And then there are the Third World countries that were colonized and
plundered by the Europeans and that now target the U.S. to vent against Western civilization and change the order of things.
These are the people Mr. Horn is concerned about offending?
Bush Inherited Clinton’s Mess
The first World Trade Center bombing took place eight years before President Bush took office and 9/11 occurred less than a year into his presidency. There is definitive evidence that both were connected and the latter was the product of years of planning. There was also the related bombing of the USS Cole and other U.S. targets around the world. How can Mr. Horn pine for the policies of Mr. Bush’s predecessors?
As a recent convert to the Republican party, I can tell you what had previously led me to vote for Bill Clinton twice and then for Al Gore.
First, I believe it was the incorrect notion pervading our community and our social circles that equates the word “Democrat” with compassion and “Republican” with intolerance. Jews are
compassionate people by nature and by religion. By voting for those whom we erroneously believe are more “compassionate,” we feel good about ourselves in light of our generally high
socio-economic status. Perhaps this is just “Jewish guilt” playing itself out.
Second, we Jews have an almost genetic fear of Christians derived from pogroms, the Inquisition, Crusades, and to some degree the Holocaust. We cringe every time a Christian
Republican talks about prayer in school because we don’t wish to see our children proselytized and assimilated. But our paranoia and distrust of American Christianity is a remnant of our past and an impediment to our future. Radical Islam is our self-declared enemy - the enemy of America, Israel, and the civilized world.
The far left is in bed with Muslim extremists and the next generation of anti-Semites who
parade around as being anti-globalization, antiwar, and anti-”occupation.” Our community’s support of the political left is very dangerous to us now. I sincerely hope more American Jews wake up to these realities.
With his refusal to follow the lead of the so-called international community and his support
of Israel’s right to strike at terrorists in Syria, President Bush has once again demonstrated
that he is indeed the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.
Meanwhile, I find it ironic and deeply troubling that Jews continue to worship at the shrine
of Bill Clinton – the former president continues to rake in big bucks speaking to brain-dead
Yidden at temples and community centers across the fruited plain – while showing very little
appreciation to Mr. Bush.
I’m afraid that President Bush at best will win between 25 and 30 percent of the Jewish
vote in 2004, which would be a real scandal – especially when measured against the
admiration and adulation given by Jews to Clinton, who was Arafat’s chief enabler and hand-
holder for most of the 1990′s.
…But He’s Wrong About Fence
Despite my being a conservative Republican – Assemblyman Dov Hikind is the only
Democrat I’ve ever voted for – and an ardent supporter of George W. Bush, I believe the
president’s position on the Israeli security fence is to be publicly challenged by every Jew with
I urge my fellow Jews to pick up the phone and call the White House comment line at
202-456-1111, and ask the following question:
“If the president’s neighbor’s dog would be viciously and continuously attacking the president’s family, would he heed the advice of his neighbors to desist from building a protective fence because it may send the ‘wrong signal’ to that negligent neighbor? Would he refrain from building the barrier because it might be perceived as an unfriendly gesture toward his callous neighbor?”
The Israeli government has the moral obligation, as does every sovereign nation, to protect
its citizens. Not completing the fence - which so far has proved very effective – for fear of
offending the sensitivities of others would be a real crime. The blood of murdered and maimed
Jews would be on the hands of any Israeli leader who buckled under the pressure.
Rabbi Oshry’s Greatness
With sadness I learned while reading the Oct. 3 issue of The Jewish Press that Rabbi Ephraim Oshry passed away on the second day of Rosh Hashanah in Manhattan.
Rabbi Oshry’s Responsa from Kovno during World War II are an everlasting monument
to his greatness. For years I had in mind that it would be a zechus for me to see the rav who
faced such adversity and responded as a posek with kindness, lucidity and ahavat Ysrael. Now I can only regret that I never followed through.
It reminds me of another missed encounter. When I was 15, I spent a summer at the Yeshiva of Montreux in Switzerland with my younger brothers Hillel and Emmanuel. Living there at the time was the gadol HaGaon Rav Y.Y. Weinberg, zt”l, author of Seridei Eish. My father, Rabbi Dr. David Feuerwerker, zt”l, recommended that we pay him a visit. Looking back, I suppose it was due to our youth that we were intimidated or perhaps didn’t understand the importance of the suggestion.
The name of Rabbi Oshry will forever be associated with the Shoah and the decisions he
advocated based on halacha and compassion. We have lost a witness and a man of action. May his memory be a blessing.
Dr. Elie Feuerwerker
Highland Park, NJ
Federman Case: Prosecution – Or Persecution?
Several weeks ago, Hebron resident Noam Federman was arrested while presenting an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court. Federman has been linked to a “Jewish underground” group on the testimony of a single individual – although no evidence exists that he had anything to do with that group - and has been held under house arrest for more than a year now, with his trial not set to begin until next June.
Federman, a brilliant legal expert, came very close to convincing the court that the house arrest detention order, initiated by Shabak, the Israeli intelligence agency, was illegal. So, rather than take any chances, Shabak issued a six-month administrative detention order signed by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, arrested him in the middle of his court case, and threw him behind bars. He sits in the worst possible conditions, in solitary confinement, in a jail with the most vicious Arab terrorists who have threatened to kill him.
A Supreme Court justice reviewed the detention order and upheld it. However, the details of the ‘evidence’ provided to him by Shabak was ‘secret,’ thereby preventing Federman or his lawyer from being able to present any kind of defense. Not only right-wing Jews are appalled by the Federman case. Writing in an Israeli daily on September 30, left-wing Meretz MK Zahava Galon stated: “Noam Federman should be put on trial or released. Circumventing the law rather than upholding it points to hysteria and bewilderment and does not achieve its purpose.”
Whether you agree or disagree with Noam Federman’s politics, he deserves the same civil rights as any other Israeli. Noam Federman is not a murderous Arab terrorist – he is an Israeli Jew.
You can help him by signing an international petition at: www.petitiononline.com/federman/petition.html
Former Mayor Vs. French Pinhead: An Exchange
Following is an e-mail correspondence that I thought would be of interest to you.
New York, NY
September 9, 2003
Dear Mr. Koch,
As a stanch supporter of Israel, I thought of sending you this article, by the former speaker of
the Knesset, Mr. A. Burg, which throws a different light on the present conditions in Israel, brought on by the Likud government in power.
With kind regards,
September 9, 2003
Dear [Name Withheld],
Thanks for your letter and article by Abraham Burg. In my opinion, the article is foolish in its
self-flagellation and does not reflect the opinion of the vast majority of Israelis, either Likud or Labor. Mr. Burg may have your support in his acceptance of Palestinian acts of terror intended to injure and kill innocent Israeli civilians, but not mine. Does he believe the two bombings this week, one in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem, were justified?
Interestingly, even the French have outlawed Hamas, both military and political wings. Burg and perhaps you may disagree with the French and European Union. I remain a supporter of both President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon in their response to the actions of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
All the best.
Edward I. Koch
Dear Mr. Koch,
I strongly believe that no killings are justified! It took the people 30 years of warfare in North Ireland to realize this and come together to start peace proceedings despite the threat of
continuous attacks during their negotiations. Must we wait that long for the Israel and Palestine
people to understand that there is only one way to peace: start negotiations despite suicide attacks and loss of life?
There are many in Israel, not in Jerusalem, who like many Palestinians want a real peace and
not one dictated to them. You no doubt saw the report of the Israel commission regarding the
treatment of their Arab citizens….
There will be no peace until the next generation takes over; there is too much hate on both sides and Mr. Sharon and people like Mr. Landau in his cabinet do nothing to help the
situation. As for Mr. Bush, I refer you to yesterday’s or today’s editorial in the NY Times,
“The President’s Character.”
Still hope to see you one of these days.
Dear [Name Withheld],
The more we correspond, the more evident our disagreements become. When you say, ‘no killings are justified,’ I call to your attention the right of self-defense and just wars.
All the best.
Dear Mr. Koch,
I think to disagree is a healthy sign!
I could reply to your theories but I rather ask: What do you think of [Howard] Dean’s remarks?
To millions around the world, including in the U.S., Jews or non-Jews, he dared to say what they are thinking but didn’t dare express until today. We are obviously not honest/neutral brokers, when we supply four billion dollars of aid yearly with which they buy the most modem war equipment. Sharon himself called it occupation of the Palestine land. Can you think of a single instance when Sharon has extended a hand of peace to the Palestinians and has given them hope for a future?
Tonight they announced their intentions to eject Chairman Arafat, against the wishes of our
government. Apart from the fact that he is the freely elected head of the Palestine people, banning him would only increase his standing with his people. It would make him a hero!
Various people [felt] compelled to call me to express their agreement with Dean’s remarks.
Had you seen the list published not long ago, by whom isn’t known, of all the Jewish people in or around the administration? Friends sent me a copy and I sent it on to some members of the
government mentioned with a warning to be careful of possible attacks!
It will never end!
September 12, 2003
Dear [Name Withheld],
Here are my responses to your recent e-mail questionnaire.
Howard Dean has now been denounced by many Democratic members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the party in the House of Representatives, for his outrageous comments equating terrorists with those who combat terrorism. The position of the United States enunciated by President Bush in the “road map” is that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are to simultaneously take described actions that are helpful to the other side. The Israelis were required to begin dismantling West Bank settlements created since March 2001. They did that. The Palestinian Authority was required to begin dismantling the infrastructure of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations. Prime Minister Abbas announced that he would not do that for fear of a civil war. The European Union recently declared that both the military and political wings of Hamas are terrorist organizations.
The New York Times, no friend of Israel in the opinion of many, in a recent article listed all of
the items that Israel has done that in your expression “extended a hand of peace to the
Palestinians.” The Times reported, “Israeli officials note that in recent months Israel had released more than 400 Palestinian prisoners, issued 18,000 extra work permits for Palestinians in Israel, released $450 million in frozen funds for the Palestinian Authority and suspended the targeted killings of Palestinian militants in Gaza, once Palestinian authorities took control of security there. In addition, Israel redeployed forces, withdrew from Gaza and Bethlehem, opened a major road in Gaza, lifted three major road blocks in the West Bank, dismantled 12 unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank and held four meetings between Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas.”
The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to give Prime Minister Abbas command over all of the
Palestinian Authority’s security forces, leaving Arafat in control of most of them, caused Abbas to resign.
Israel is an ally of the United States. The Palestinian Authority is not. Your support of Howard Dean’s comments is support of his premise that the relationship between Israel and the
United States and that of the United States and the Palestinian Authority are equal and neutral. It is not. Indeed, the United States provides Israel with the arms to defend itself, as we do other allies, e.g., NATO nations, Egypt, Jordan, etc. However, the Palestinians, knowing of the special relationship between the United States and Israel, have nevertheless asked the United States to assist in brokering the peace negotiations. It was never asked to be neutral, nor is it.
You should also know that a majority of Palestinians polled are opposed to a two-state
solution. They seek to impose Arab sovereignty on all of historic Palestine, ‘from the river to the sea.’ That is in contrast to a majority of Israelis polled who support a two-state solution.
With respect to the ejection of Arafat, while I believe it would be an error, as does Shimon Peres, that does not make it wrong for the Israelis to conclude otherwise. I believe it would be an error, not because he was elected by the Palestinian people, but because he will have a larger world stage outside of Ramallah to do mischief. As you know, the United States will not negotiate with Arafat, insisting on an independent Palestinian Authority Prime Minister. The United States believes “Arafat is an impediment to peace.” Israel believes that Arafat has encouraged and authorized terrorist activities.
I have no doubt that you and your friends support Howard Dean’s remarks which, you may
not know, he has now recanted, saying he was unaware of the meaning of the language he used and did not intend to convey what seems to give you and your friends comfort. However, many people, myself included, think he knew exactly what he was saying and was seeking support from the far left wing of the Democratic party, which includes about a third of the Democrats.
You appear to be distressed that six Jews are in sub-Cabinet positions in the Bush administration. There is not a single Jew in the Bush cabinet. Neither situation distresses me.
President Bush created the Bush Doctrine, rivaling the Monroe and Truman doctrines. The Bush doctrine, briefly stated, is that we will “make no distinction between thee terrorists who committed these [terrorist] acts and those who harbor them.” Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell and National Security Adviser Rice are considered by many to be the best Cabinet officers ever representing any president on defense matters.
In the United States, we hope and like to believe that people are selected on the merits. Your
experience, I believe, is with France, about which that cannot be said and which has a long history of anti-Semitism.
Jews like you who are so ready to damn the State of Israel bring little credit to themselves.
Your non-Jewish neighbors in France and Monaco undoubtedly have contempt for those who take every opportunity to disassociate themselves from their fellow Jews. Your reference to Jews in government was so disturbing that I am writing with total candor – not seeking to spare you from my deeply felt observations even though you may find them painful. My suggestion to you is that you take to heart the words of Rabbi Hillel who said, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not
I have expressed myself to the fullest possible extent. Unless something dramatically new arises, our correspondence must end. I am unable to devote the time needed to be a pen pal.
All the best.
Edward I. Koch
Questions Of Shaimos - Question Of Muktze
When I buy The Jewish Press for my wife and myself for our Shabbos reading, I don’t expect to handle things that are muktze - impermissible to touch on Shabbos - as well as to receive things that contain the name of Hashem and that might inadvertently be thrown away.
I fully expect that a newspaper like The Jewish Press would be more careful in this regard.
Rabbi Yaakov Klass Responds: In addressing a similar concern recently raised by a reader (Letters, Sept. 29), we voiced our regret that the insert in question slipped past our advertising
Notwithstanding, there are numerous reasons why there is no clear violation of muktze in this
situation. The particular insert consisted of numerous items - a tzedaka appeal, an envelope,
a tefilla of Shela Hakadosh and a CD.
Since all were placed in the same package within that week’s issue, according to the Aruch
HaShulchan (Orach Chayyim 310:9) these are all permissible items because they’ve become basis l’klei shemelachto le’issur – a base for a utensil (the CD) whose use is forbidden on Shabbat. If one needs the base for his own use or for the place it occupies, such would be permitted. The same pertains to the muktze itself - only, however, if it was placed with intention; if, for example, one forgot (and left) money on a bed or placed it there without intention, the permitted item (the bed) is not even considered a base to a forbidden object
(the money) and we may shake the permitted item until the forbidden object falls.
We also find that Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth shlita states in Shmirat Shabbat K’hilchato (Vol. I
20:81-83) that if one has a penknife that has various sections, including scissors or a nail clipper, and even if he is particular not to use these for any other (permitted) use, he may nevertheless carry it for the use of the knife found therein - but he should not open those other parts that are forbidden (muktze) to use. He also notes that a keycase which has a nailclipper attached to it may be used on Shabbat, but that it’s better if one removes the keys while it’s still day [before Shabbat]; finally, in the case of a key ring which includes keys that are muktze such as automobile or elevator keys, one should remove the forbidden (muktze) keys before Shabbat.
Regarding the latter case, R. Neuwirth points out in his notes that the Gaon R. Shlomo Zalman
Auerbach, zt”l, permits the use of the key ring as it is better to leave it and use it - as tiltul min
hatzad, indirect handling - than to touch the muktze on Shabbat to remove it.
As we noted last week, because we prefer to err on the side of caution, we are taking steps to
assure that the problems described in your letter will not occur again.
Singles, Look In The Mirror Before Pointing Fingers
Kudos to the ‘Im Yirtzeh Hashem’ column for placing the onus of the singles crisis right where it belongs - on the shoulders of singles themselves. For years we’ve heard of unscrupulous shadchanim and uncaring acquaintances who turn deaf ears to their plight, but it’s all a bunch of hooey. Any person trapped in the singles conundrum is there by his or her own doing and can extricate himself or herself with the proper hishtadlus.
Several months ago a young, supposedly Orthodox, woman appearing on a Jewish radio
program launched this broadside: “After speaking to a few of my friends, I’ve concluded that there are no Jewish men out there interested in getting married.” She then buttressed her remark with the story of a friend, a 30-something mit alle mailes. This woman, a corporate vice president, was seriously considering marrying a gentile before her biological clock expired. The host of the program was dumbfounded, but his guest proffered,”I can see her point.”
The basic problem for the Orthodox single is confusion. On the one hand, he/she wants to please the family. Generally this means making the safe choice – good provider, proper pedigree etc. On the other hand, he/she wants his/her friends to be impressed with his/her selection. Singles often describe their “ideal “mate and feel it necessary to make this fantasy real, lest they be accused of, Heaven forbid, ‘settling.’ Finally, he/she often sublimates his/her own desires, fearing public scorn. For those of you keeping score, that’s at least one hand too many.
So what’s the answer? I believe that in a perfect world Jews would marry to fulfill the
Creator’s wishes, but since we are not living in a perfect world, let’s be pragmatic. The first step for any single is to decide whether or not he/she wants to be married. There is a difference between being single and being “a single.” The former is a situation, the latter a lifestyle. Most people with honest introspection can determine the category to which they belong. If one discovers that the prospect of marriage is unappealing, let him/her leave the market. There are too many narcissists who love being doted on by shadchanim who never
tire of telling them how impressed they are with their externals.
Assuming a sincere desire to wed, one must decide what he/she wants in a spouse. Forget your friends – and I mean that literally, because after the wedding you will likely develop new
associations. Forget your family, because while they may have your best interests in mind, their
values are often outdated products of their own life experiences.
By the process of elimination, you must decide what you are looking for. This can be a difficult
process for an Orthodox Jew. For example, a young lady with the proper Bais Yaakov background would have a hard time admitting to herself, much more to others, that she is basically attracted to the physical. But to thine own self be true. Once one recognizes his/her type, he/she must decide how to go about capturing the object of his/her affection.
Let’s assume we’re dealing with a fellow preoccupied with looks. He is forthright with the
shadchan, who then tries to dissuade him. I would advise the fellow to tell this shadchan that he knows what he wants and is willing to make allowances in other areas. This might involve
accepting a woman deemed less desirable by societal standards. Is that ‘settling’? Perhaps, but
it is creative because you end up with what you really want, or at least what you want at the time.
I’m not naive enough to believe that these humble words can instigate change, but they are
heartfelt. And you know what our Sages say: It’s not good for man to be alone. That’s all we need to know. Now get with the program.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
The Jewish Press, which I’ve been reading since its first issue, is a greatly improved paper - one that we can be proud of, even when we don?t totally agree with it.
However, I felt a chill of fear when I read Emanuel Winston’s column of Sept. 5. I don’t want to sound like a real Golus Yid, but the venom in that particular column against President Bush and Secretary of State Powell was beyond the pale.
There can be debate – even fiery debate. One may criticize and fulminate and use convincing arguments to their fullest extent. But the accusations and name-calling in that column – against an administration that has been by far the most pro-Israel of all – is a most unhelpful tactic.
If you consider the changes wrought by this president in his dealings with Israel and its enemies, you realize that we have much to be thankful for. Indeed, one must wonder at the prescience of The Jewish Press when you endorsed the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2000. I sometimes think that even you have marveled at the way this president, knowing full well that he can never hope to get a majority of the Jewish vote, assumed positions that were very pro-
Israel. (Who knows? Maybe his policies are a result of your endorsement.)
Mr. Winston’s invective, unfortunately, reflects not only an insensitivity to the possible repercussions from such venom, it also betrays a boorishness that can backfire not only on you, but on the American Jewish community as a whole. I hope that in the future you exercise more editorial control over this man’s ranting.
Editor’s Response: As we’ve pointed out on previous occasions, we do not necessarily agree with everything our columnists espouse. We endeavor to give our featured columnists and our op-ed contributors as much latitude as possible when it comes to expressing their views – within reason, of course. As for President Bush, anyone familiar with the editorial positions of our newspaper and the general tone of our opinion pieces knows that, despite our
strong opposition to the road map peace plan, we have been quite supportive of this administration and appreciative of its generally strong support of Israel.
Storming For Gidone
We are all at fault for allowing the murder of Gidone Busch to fade from public interest. Our secular brethren don’t want to hear of Mr. Busch. They will protest and demonstrate for non-Jews, but not for an observant Jew. You know the old fears: What will they think of us? We can’t rock the boat. Our position is precarious.
New York had a similar incident involving an African immigrant who was shot to death by the police. People stormed, and something happened. Observant Jews are faced with many things that require storming. Your paper is now storming. Yasher Koach.
Waskow Deserves Criticism
Re the letter to the editor from Adriaan Finnerman in your Sept. 5 issue:
To criticize Steven Plaut for his op-ed article on Arthur Waskow is to miss the point entirely. “Rabbi’ Waskow’s political and religious views are contrary to any standard of normative rabbinic Judaism. I suggest reader Finnerman do a little research before voicing an opinion. One good source is a pamphlet written by Rael Jean Isaac for Americans For a Safe
Israel titled “the Rabbis of Breira.”
Jackson Heights, NY
Defending The Mayor (I)
I was distressed to read Sam Rieger’s letter in The Jewish Press criticizing Mayor Bloomberg on his trip to Israel (‘Unmoved By Mayoral Visit,’ Sept. 5). With all the anti-Semitism in the world today, why would Mr. Rieger criticize a political leader who makes the supreme effort to travel to Israel during this period of difficulty? How many politicians are not going there? How many Jews are not going there? Who cares what Mr. Bloomberg did or didn’t do on his
trip? If he stayed in his hotel room (which he did not) it would have been a terrific effort on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. Of course he had bodyguards with him; he’s a Jewish
mayor of the largest city in the U.S.
J. Philip Rosen
New York, NY
Defending The Mayor (II)
In his letter, Sam Rieger asked what was the point of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent visit to Israel after the tragic bus bombing by terrorists in Jerusalem.
Perhaps Rieger is not familiar with the many acts of kindness that Mayor Bloomberg performed during his short trip.
First, he performed the mitzvah of nichum aveilim (comforting the mourners) by visiting Chana and Matanya Nathanson, who were sitting shiva for their two-year-old daughter, Tehilla.
Second, he performed the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick) by meeting with the children who survived the terrorist attack in the pediatric ICU of Hadassah Hospital.
Finally, by making the trip (which was undertaken at his own expense), he demonstrated to the entire world that he stood in solidarity with Israel – refusing to stand by idly while Jewish
blood was being spilled.
Mayor Bloomberg may not be observant, but his actions certainly demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Israel of which all Jews – Orthodox and otherwise - can be proud.
On The Other Hand…
I was really put off by Councilman Simcha Felder’s gushing column last week reporting on his trip to Jerusalem with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Felder, an elected official who sits in the
legislative chamber of New York City government, sounds like a kid who can’t buy his own ticket when he thanks the mayor for giving him ‘the great privilege of participating in this once in a lifetime experience.’
I also think Felder’s description of the “hero’s welcome” he and his group received at the Kotel was a bit much: ” Our security detail, a combination of New York and Israeli police as well as Shin Bet agents, had their hands full holding back the excited crowds.”
What got me most, however, was his description of his feelings while riding a bus along the same route of the August 19 attack secure in the protection of what he acknowledged was ‘tight security.’
Here are Felder’s memorable words: “Slowly, the bus traveled to the attack site. I felt some trepidation, not knowing what we were going to be faced with.”
I’m sure those ‘excited’ throngs felt very badly about his ‘trepidation.’
New York, NY
I am disappointed that The Jewish Press, both editorially and in its Letters section, continues to attack Lishmah and its efforts to bring all Jews together to study Torah. You criticize Lishmah’s sponsors for denigrating “normative” Judaism in giving non-Orthodox streams equal billing. On the contrary, they should be applauded for doing so. It is very clear to me that our only hope for survival in the 21st century is to seize upon anything that works to bind us together and not get hung up on observance of ritual. In case you haven’t noticed, there are vastly more non-Orthodox Jews than Orthodox. Pragmatic compromise is the name of the modern game.
New York, NY
Why would Rabbi Avi Weiss and his Orthodox Lishmah colleagues want to be a part of Reform and Reconstructionist efforts at convincing Jews that there are no binding religious observances intrinsic to Judaism? On what authority do they base setting prior practice on its ear?
Indeed, if it is not our special Divine commandments that define us, what then makes us Jews? Even among most of the various splinter denominations of Christianity there are shared religious imperatives with disagreement limited largely to their implementation.
Not Alike At All
Arthur Weston in his letter to the editor (Aug.29) made a very astute observation regarding
Catholicism and its belief in Jewish deicide. During the inauguration of Vatican II, I was Catholic and heard many sermons regarding this subject. (My brother is currently a member of the Catholic clergy.) What was stated was: “If we continue to blame the Jews for killing Jesus, they will never want to convert. It should be explained that it is not a collective guilt. In other words, the Jews today cannot be held responsible for what the Jews did at that time.”
A rather amusing note is that at the same time that this was said about Jews, the same was being said regarding Protestants. Until that time, Catholics were not allowed to enter a Protestant church. The Catholic Church then said, “How can we expect to convert Protestants if we won’t allow Catholics to enter their churches and we condemn interfaith services?”
It should be noted that this same subterfuge is used by the Church to convince Jews that they and Catholics are “so much alike.” I shudder every time an observant Jew innocently says to me when they learn I am a convert, “Catholics and Jews are so much alike – it’s no wonder you became so observant!”
L’havdil! Having been educated in that religion, I know that it is closer to avodah zara than to Torah Judaism. Baruch Hashem, I have been a Jew now for more than thirty-five years. I learn Chumash, halacha, chassidus and Talmud. Ours is a beautiful faith from Hashem, the One, true and only G-d. May no Jew be led to think otherwise, and together may we merit to
see the coming of our Righteous Moshiach.
Jocelyn Ruth Krieger
Catholic Criticism Of Gibson Movie
Rose Brennan’s allegation (Letters, Sept. 5) that Mel Gibson’s passion play has received not one word of condemnation from an ”enlightened” and newly ”sensitive” Catholic hierarchy is untrue.
Rev. Professor John Pawlikowski, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews and a very prominent representative of the Catholic Church, mounted a spirited attack on the Gibson movie while visiting Australia. The condemnation was prominently displayed in the Melbourne Age newspaper. Gibson’s side also accused the church of obtaining its draft of the script illegally.
You Read It Here First
Upon reading the article entitled ‘An Open Letter to the World’ in your Sept. 5 issue, the word plagiarism immediately came to mind, even though the byline indicated the piece was ‘submitted,’ not written, by Sam Domb.
What you neglected to mention was that the article had in fact been written in the 1980′s by Rabbi Meir Kahane (may G-d avenge his blood).
Editor’s Response: You’re absolutely right; we should have made Rabbi Kahane’s authorship of the article crystal clear. In fact, as was the case with a substantial portion of Rabbi Kahane’s writings, ” ‘An Open Letter to the World’ originally appeared in The Jewish Press ” the Jan. 8, 1988 issue, to be precise.
Everyone Can Help
Every Jew who reads this letter has the power to unite Jews everywhere to give tremendous help to Israel.
Please send copies of this letter to rabbis of every synagogue in your community asking them to announce on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur a world-wide campaign for every Jew to:
1) Send as much tzedakah as possible to Israel; and
2) Pray every day for peace in Israel.
Israel is greatly in need of our help – both spiritually and financially – at this time. It is fighting for its existence with very little support from the world. In addition to the costs of defending
itself against terrorism, the economy is down because of a decrease in tourism. Our rabbis can announce the names of worthy organizations collecting funds for Israel at this time.
G-d tells us in the Torah that if we give 10 percent of our income to tzedakah, we will be rewarded with riches.
Please also send this letter ASAP via mail, fax, or e-mail to as many Jews as you can so that this campaign will reach every corner of the world.
May G-d grant us all great success and peace in Israel.
On my recent visit to Eretz Yisrael I went to daven vatikin at the Kotel. After davening was over I left my tefillin on the chair I had sat on for a two-minute trip to the bathroom - and when I returned my tefillin were gone. Fortunately, I got them back a few days later. That, however, does not mean that everyone who has tefillin taken from the Kotel will get them back, especially since there are people in Israel who steal tefillin in order to resell them.
I urge anyone bringing tefillin to the Kotel: Do not leave your tefillin unattended even for one second - even if it means bringing your tefillin into the bathroom. The halacha allows you to bring your tefillin into the bathroom as long as they’re double-wrapped. If you place your tefillin in their cases and put them into a shopping bag, your tefillin are considered double-
A Contrarian And Her Critics
Rachel Weiss Responds to Letters That Appeared in the Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 Issues
In Yiddish there’s a saying, “Oif der ganiv brent der hittle,” loosely translated as “The thief
feels his hat burning.” Could my expressed views possibly have hit on some raw nerves? All this indignation and stirred-up emotion could, in my humble opinion, have been better suited to
occasions that warrant such heated-up passion.
Why is it so difficult to face the fact that no two persons are alike? There are social butterflies
and loners, card-players and boardwalk amblers, couch potatoes and avid joggers, opera lovers and rock ‘n rollers, meat eaters and vegetarians, perpetual dreamers and unrepentant realists, knights in shining armor and chauvinistic apes, outgoing personnas and reserved souls … you get the picture. What works for one may not work for the other. Not for naught is matchmaking such a daunting task.
The bottom line is that we are here to do and accomplish great things within the boundaries set
by our Torah, and preferably – whenever possible, Mr. Bleiberg - without fanfare, kudos, public tributes and self-plaudits. The more ‘hidden’ one’s act of chesed to another, the more meritorious the deed.
It is an inherent trait of our people that we are not given to flaunting our G-d-given talents and beneficence. In the same vein, there are sects of people that may be not quite as schooled in
social etiquette as many of you may hanker for, yet who have been imbued with a deep sense of modesty from childhood on. This precludes mingling with members of the opposite sex at
simchas, in the workplace, and in casual chance encounters. Sound strange to some? For those who practice this way of life, it is simply normal. Situations differ from one another, as well. One can’t simply judge another’s behavior or mannerism in one swipe across the board. There are times when it is appropriate and befitting to greet another, and there are circumstances under which it may not be altogether proper to do so.
While rude behavior is never acceptable and should not be tolerated, our energies ought to be
focused and channeled in allaying the loads of the needy amongst us. Whether in the form of an uplifting smile, an invitation to a Shabbos meal, or various offers that may include monetary
assistance or simply a supporting arm or shoulder, these individual achievements will certainly score more brownie points in the hereafter than will keeping count of who did or did not greet you in the street today.
The next time you feel your blood pressure leap in tune to your resentment towards the woman who just passed you by on the crowded avenue and seemed not to notice you, lighten up. She may very well have been rushing to her daily voluntary stint at the local nursing home or hospital to help feed and otherwise comfort long-suffering and lonely patients. While her
humanitarian mission may not be obvious to the casual meanderer in the street, you can be sure that she is accruing credit in the Book that counts. So let’s all count our blessings and stop nitpicking and finding fault in others.
Ahavat Yisrael is indeed a lofty aspiration, Ms. Leogrande. The true essence of such is, baruch Hashem, rampant amongst our people. Tomchei Shabbos, Bikur Cholim, Hatzolah, Chaveirim, Kupat Ezra, Yad L’Achim are just a few of the numerous organizations run by selfless and dedicated volunteers who tirelessly practice ahavat Yisrael 24/7. If this doesn’t sufficiently satisfy the craving of Mr. Bleiberg for word to get out about “all the tremendous qualities a Torah Jew is supposed to exhibit,” a good start to that end may be to greet both our Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors alike.
By the way, where exactly does it say that we – you and I – must think alike? It’s okay to agree to disagree. The great Hillel and Shamai did just that, while maintaining decorum and the utmost respect for one another. That admirable attribute – in addition to extending benefit of doubt and thinking before acting or judging – will render this planet an infinitely more pleasant place to dwell in.
It is precisely at this auspicious time of year that we are obliged to search our inner selves. This month of Elul affords us the chance to turn its acronym [alef, lamed, vav, lamed] from Oy Li V’Oyva Li – woe is to me and woe is to my being – to Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li – I turn to my ‘friend’ and He will turn to me, so that we merit Ashrei Lach V’Ashrei L’Nishmasach – praiseworthy is to you and praiseworthy is to your soul.
At this juncture, please allow me to clarify an apparently grossly misconstrued perception. I find absolutely nothing wrong with the name “Leogrande,” and question of its origin never
crossed my mind. I am rather mystified as to Ms. Zach’s detailed speculation of such irrelevancy – and, in fact, I happen to feel that it is a beautiful and aristocratic name. Its meaning also just happened to fit with the tone of the writer’s original letter. But now that she’s contritely gone from “I can’t imagine why anyone would want to say ‘Good Shabbos’ to you, Ms. Weiss!” to “we simply want to connect with our fellow Jews - and that includes you” and “I wish you a Gut Shabbos,” I would like to digress for a moment to expound on the Hebrew translation of (Leo) “aryeh” – whose first letter, alef, stands for Elul … the reish for Rosh Hashana … the yud for Yom Kippur … and the hei for Hashana Rabbah. “Aryeh shoag mi lo
yireh…” – “When the lion roars, who shall dare not have fear in his heart!” The nature of the coming High Holy days is meant to instill in us a fear of Heaven and to awaken our souls to teshuvah.
Whereby - should any of the content of my previous letters have served to offend anyone in
any way, I hereby beg forgiveness of those who may have been inadvertently hurt. To all my
adversaries whose opposition to my sentiments ran the gamut of mild to vehement and downright wrathful - please know that I harbor no grudge and forgive you wholeheartedly. May pleasantries cross your path continuously on your journey through life.
ZOA Pushed For Pipes
We at the Zionist Organization of America applaud President Bush for using his recess appointment authority to bring the expertise of Dr. Daniel Pipes to the U.S. Institute of Peace. We were dismayed at the extent to which Dr. Pipes’s character and record were being maligned with falsehoods and inaccuracies.
More troubling than the accusations leveled against Dr. Pipes, however, was the relatively
weak level of visible support for his nomination that characterized the last few months. During the course of lobbying, most members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee, which had jurisdiction over the nomination, we were told on several occasions that the Committee members were being flooded with calls and faxes opposing Dr. Pipes, and that we were the only American Jewish organization that they had heard from regularly on this matter.
In addition, we were also told by senior White House officials that the nomination was not
receiving visible support from most of the organized Jewish community, which had been a
source of deep concern at one point for the administration.
For these reasons, we are disappointed that some media outlets have taken it upon themselves
to label the Pipes recess appointment as a “victory” for certain Jewish groups without acknowledging the Zionist Organization of America’s role. While some groups did eventually engage in efforts to lend support to the nomination, it was made clear to us by several political officials that the Zionist Organization of America was allocating much more time and resources towards lending support for Dr. Pipes than other notable American Jewish organizations to which the success of the nomination has been attributed.
As with all of our advocacy work, we do what we do not for recognition, but to achieve goals that support America’s security interests. At the same time, however, we believe that certain media sources are doing a disservice to the American public by giving credit solely to the American Jewish groups that were clearly not as engaged in this nomination fight as we were. Responsible journalists should, at a minimum, be listing the Zionist Organization of America among those groups who can claim victory with respect to this important appointment.
National Policy Coordinator
Deputy National Policy Coordinator
Zionist Organization of America
I moved to New York City in January 2002 and have found The Jewish Press to be a refreshing counterpoint to the daily anti-Semitic propaganda being fostered by the mainstream print and TV media. I buy The Jewish Press faithfully every week and have found your religious Zionist perspective to be spiritually and emotionally uplifting. In particular your stories about the Jewish communities in YESHA have been deeply moving and have strengthened my commitment to religious Zionism.
I am deeply gratified to see that The Jewish Press supported a free Iraq. Your editorials and articles during the American liberation of Iraq made me feel incredibly proud to be Jewish. You reminded me that our Jewish vision is one of universal human freedom, that our quest for
freedom is not only for Israel and the Jewish nation but for all of humanity.
Rabbi David B. Hollander eloquently articulated my reasons for supporting a free Iraq in his June 20 Sedra of the Week column. I share his outrage that the German murderers want to see Saddam inflict the same genocide on the Kurds and Shi’ites that they inflicted on the Jewish nation. Similarly, the French, who are inciting violence against their own Jewish community today, have no business talking about morality in their opposition to a free Iraq.
And the opposition of the Democratic Party here in the U.S. to a liberated Iraq has filled me with such outrage that I am thinking of voting for President Bush in 2004 - even though I am a lifelong Democrat who counted chads for Al Gore in 2000 in Palm Beach County. (This decision will depend upon President Bush’s support of Israel’s war on terrorism, of course.)
New York, NY
More Rabbinic Voices Needed
The grassroots efforts to petition Sharon regarding the road map are wonderful. The root of the problem, however, is not Sharon. Sharon’s position is simply representative of that of the general Israeli public. The root of the problem is that the leaders and the society at large are afraid to recognize and proclaim fundamental truths.
We are afraid to proclaim that the Bible really means what it says. We are afraid we will be labeled extremists and fundamentalists. There is, however, a fundamental truth stated over and over in the Bible: that the Holy Land is meant for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob exclusively.
The spiritual leaders of Israel need to cry out proclaiming this fundamental truth. In this we share common ground with fundamentalist Christians.
The goings-on in the Knesset are akin to a disorienting, hallucinatory bad dream. Whatever it is that shapes Israel’s laws makes little sense. Why would officials ban reporters from Arutz 7 (an Orthodox pro-settlement radio station) from the Knesset, while permitting the Arab network Al Jazeera’s reporters to have the right of entry?
Hagai Seri-Levi, Arutz 7′s reporter, was removed from a meeting of the Knesset on the grounds that Arutz 7 is an illegal station. Arutz 7 operates from international waters and consequently is not an illegal station. Why the selective harassment? For years other radio stations, such as the left-wing Abie Nathan’s “Voice of Peace, ” operated from international waters without being hassled by the Israeli government. Nor has Israel shut down the truly illegal Arab media, which advocates death to innocent Israelis.
The paragons of Israeli politics are committing an outrage which may very well haunt them in the future. Arutz Sheva may represent a minority in Israel. But it is a minority of an estimated half million or more listeners. Labeling Arutz 7 illegitimate can only serve to undermine the very foundation of the Jewish state.
‘Purim In Summer’
The news from Israel is so incredible that I am beginning to believe this must be a rare “Purim in Summer” – that Israel is in some intoxicated state wherein she cannot discern between Haman and Mordecai.
While homicide bombers are blowing up innocent Israeli civilians, the Israeli government considers Jewish settlers the real and dangerous “enemy” and uproots them from the land, instead of uprooting the real enemy – Palestinians – who have no other goal but to make Israel another Auschwitz in the Middle East, exterminating all of the Jews, G-d forbid. In fact, on the same day that a homicide bomber murdered an innocent Israeli, Jewish settlers were being torn from their land by Israeli soldiers.
So this must be Purim, because today’s Haman, the Palestinian terrorists, are being placated via the “road map” while Jewish people are being brutally ripped from their cherished land – by other Jews.
I wept as I watched Israeli soldiers fighting settlers while suicide bombers murdered innocent Jews. Has Israel gone mad?
‘Settlers’ Really ‘Returnees’
While the battle rages in Israel over ‘settlements’ as the Arabs and Americans call it, it is a battle of futility. The terminology is totally incorrect, and therefore an agreement cannot be reached. It’s like one side is talking about apples and the other about bananas.
Here is an explanation and a clarification of the misunderstood word ‘settlements.’ The Jewish people have returned to the biblical homeland. They claim nobody’s land but their own, their only homeland. The Hebrew word is mitnachalim – returnees.
The problem is that the Jews are soft-hearted and did not drive out the squatters, the Arabs, which by universal precedent, they should have done.
The Arabs have 22 countries and they are on the verse of swallowing up two or three more European countries…
Even the land knows who its rightful owners are. Where the Jews live the land is verdant, even the land which originally was beach sand. Is green with grass and fruit bearing trees - a land of
abundance, blessed by the G-d of Israel.
Neve Dekalim, Israel
Defending Passover Getaways
In a letter to the editor in last week’s Jewish Press, Samuel Messinger of Miami Beach deplored the alleged excess manifested by vacationing families at kosher-for-Passover holiday programs in hotels and resorts.
Dear Mr. Messinger: where and when I and my family take our vacation is our own affair. Tens of thousands of Jews now go away for Passover each year, in what has indeed become a significant phenomenon on the American scene.
It is a wonderful time as far-flung family members come together, at the height of the spring season, for eight or more days of fun and fellowship.
Back in ‘the good old days’ your mother or grandmother may have done all the cooking and cleaning, but our family believes in freeing the slaves! No more does mom have to be a slave in the kitchen cooking all day, and we’re able to spend our holidays in wonderful locales that our forebears could only dream about.
Most of the kosher tour operators are quite careful with food preparation, and in most instances the extra food is donated for charitable use. And don’t feel sorry for the kitchen help - they’re very well paid these days.
More On BTs, FFBs, Shidduchim And Status
Stop Whining, Already
Re the recent letters to the editor from converts and baalei teshuva whining about their difficulties in being fully accepted into the Jewish community: that’s not what I’ve seen. The
congregation I attend in Brooklyn has many geirim and newly-observant of diverse races. They are welcomed with open arms and are afforded complete respect. I am proud of them and consider them my brothers and sisters. And many of them find marriage partners.
I can’t help but wonder whether those who complain that they can’t find a shidduch aren’t using their newly-acquired Jewishness or frumkeit as an excuse. Perhaps there are other reasons for their problems, such as personality flaws. Whatever the reason, the difficulty of finding a shidduch is something one hears from singles throughout the Jewish community, no matter their backgrounds.
To the reader who claimed he is unable to get dates with frum-from-birth singles who are
wrongfully rejecting him for merely being a baal teshuvah:
As someone who has had much contact with baalei teshuvah, and who admires their deep
commitment and sacrifice in making the difficult choice to become observant, I’ve seen some who’ve teetered back and forth between being observant and reverting to their original lack of observance. Some need years to find their “comfort level” of frumkeit, which is understandable. Many do become fully observant, but others fall backward.
For a baal teshuvah to say to an FFB, “Take me for who I am now, respect me for making the
commitment to becoming frum, and forget all your fears and concerns,” is just not realistic for many FFB singles. I am of the strong opinion that baalei teshuvah should not begin dating seriously until they have been frum for a number of years, to ensure that they know exactly where they are religiously, and where they will stay.
In any case, good luck to all those seeking their zivugim. It is all in the hands of Shamayim;
you must only do your hishtadlus and trust in Hashem to bring you the right zivug at the right
Knowing Who We Are
Re the baal teshuvah who’s having great difficulty dating in right-wing frum circles because
many frum-from-birth Jews (FFBs) will not go out with him:
The implication is that since he isn’t being set up with FFBs he can’t get married. I would suggest that he go out with a baalas teshuvah. There are quite a few wonderful, talented, fine, attractive, and frum baalas teshuvah. Why should he feel so dejected when there are so many nice frum girls who have a background similar to his whom he could be dating?
Turning to Chananya Weissman’s letter to the editor on shidduchim which appeared in the issue of June 13 and contained some good points: Rabbi Weissman mentions that some of our great leaders married converts such as Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua. He mentions that Yehoshua married a convert who according to several commentaries was a harlot. I’d like to elaborate on this.
Yehoshua led the children of Israel into the Holy Land. The woman he married was named
Rachav. Obviously, her past was a result of her upbringing. However, when the situation
materialized she risked her life for the benefit of the Jewish people. She put herself in mortal
danger when she hid the spies and helped them escape from the city of Yericho. Furthermore, If Yehoshua married her we can be sure that she was a special righteous woman.
Moshe Rabbeinu married his wife, the daughter of Yisro, before the Torah was given. She
also was a very special and righteous woman as our great rabbis have taught us.
In a similar vein, Rabbi Akiva’s wife must have been a very special, intelligent and righteous
woman. To have the foresight to see that such a person as this simple shepherd Akiva could totally transform himself and become what he became is something most of us don’t have. Furthermore, she acted on this conviction and gave up everything – her money, her social standing, and all the physical comforts the wealthy take for granted.
We have to know who we are and realize we are not on the level of these tzaddikim. However, when we look for a shidduch we should be aware that there is something such as character. Character doesn’t necessarily mean that the shidduch prospect is the most popular in the class. It’s not necessarily reflected by how much money someone is earning, or whether he wears Armani suits or she wears the most expensive and trendy dresses, or even by the degree of status one had achieved in his or her shul or community.
The contempt for baalei teshuvah that comes through some of the recent letters you’ve published corresponds with the sentiments I’ve experienced since becoming Torah observant some nineteeen years ago. There’s a caste system in the frum community that rivals anything seen in India, with emphasis placed not on a person’s inner traits, his spirituality, his middot, but on which yeshiva he attended and who his great-grandfather was.
Frankly, I’ve met an alarmingly small number of frum-from-birth Jews who come close to
exhibiting the sincerity, the kavanah, the beauty of soul, that I see in baalei teshuvah. For too many FFBs, Judaism is simply a lifestyle they were born into, and putting on tefillin or going to minyan is simply an ingrained habit done with little reflection and even less sanctification – no different, l’havdil, from putting on one’s shoes in the morning or brushing one’s teeth after a meal.
Years ago I heard a prominent rabbi warn a group of mostly FFB youngsters against being
complacent in their frumkeit, pointing out to them that the only reason they were frum was because their parents were, and that if their parents worshiped a can of Coke, that is exactly what they would be worshiping. I know all too many frum adults whose Judaism is no deeper than the Coke-can ritualism described by the rabbi, yet they wear their FFB status as some badge of honor and are quick to deride and denigrate baalei teshuvah.
Before patting themselves on the back for their great wisdom in choosing to be born into frum
families – thereby confusing an accident of birth with some praiseworthy achievement – FFBs
should ask themselves why it is that one rarely finds a baal teshuvah implicated in any of the
embezzling, stealing, money-laundering and similar such crimes that have given Orthodox Jews
such an ugly image in the outside world. It seems to be very much an FFB phenomenon, this
epidemic of white-collar crime, and I would suggest that one of the reasons for this is the sick, unholy emphasis on externals and material gain that has overtaken large swaths of the Orthodox world.
Frankly, given the obsession with gashmius and status among FFBs, I would prefer that my
children, when they reach marriagable age in a few years (G-d willing), marry baalei teshuvah even though they themselves have been frum from birth. I didn’t become frum in order to have children and in-laws whose frumkeit consists of little more than the rote observance of folk rituals ingrained from birth.
What If Gidone Busch Had Been A FFB?
Your June 20 editorial supporting the call by Congressman Nadler for a new investigation into
the death of Gidone Busch appeared on the page immediately facing some letters to the editor
regarding the bias in the frum community against baalei teshuvah when arranging shidduchim.
You will recall that immediately after Gidone Busch was shot to death in Boro Park by New York City police officers, several Jewish community leaders, including Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz (a VP from Agudath Israel) and former councilman Noach Dear, held a news conference, jointly with the NYPD, at which Dear and the others gave the NYPD strong backing.
Would Dear, Lefkowitz, et al, have been so quick to carry the NYPD’s water if Gidone Busch had been frum from birth instead of a child of assimilated Long Island suburbia?
The question is not whether there is bias in the frum community against baalei teshuvah. The
question is whether such discrimination and bias is limited only to the shidduch scene.
Kenneth H. Ryesky (Esq.)
East Northport, NY
What Bush Did And Didn’t Say
I was intrigued by Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s column in last week’s Jewish Press (“Road Map Rage”) in which he savages President Bush for his promotion of the “road map.” While Hikind makes several points I agree with, I think it’s important to point out several problems in his presentation.
First, Hikind writes that “President Bush found it necessary to harshly scold Israel for the
targeted attempt on Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi” (emphasis added) but then incongruously relates what Mr. Bush actually said: “I regret the loss of innocent life… I’m concerned that the attacks will make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to fight off terrorist attacks. I also don’t believe the attacks help Israeli security.”
Expressing “regret” for the Palestinian civilians inadvertently hit in the attack on Rantisi and his ilk, “concern” for the effect the attacks will have on the Palestinian Authority, and “belief”
that the attacks will not help Israeli security hardly constitutes a “harsh” presidential rebuke.
Moreover, a couple of days later - and well before Hikind’s article appeared - the president went out of his way to clear the air and give Prime Minister Sharon a “green light” to go after “ticking bombs.” Can anyone now honestly say that America does not accept Israel’s right to defend itself – as Hikind suggests is the case?
In a second example of misleading hyperbole, Hikind goes on to say: “President Bush, asked
recently who his favorite leader is in the Middle East, stunned reporters when he cited Crown
Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.”
Yet here is how the Washington Post reported the incident to which Hikind refers: “Aides [to
President Bush] said the one leader in the region who has earned Bush’s respect is Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.”
So, contrary to Hikind’s distorted version, what was reported was someone’s secondhand,
subjective impression of the president’s feelings, not a “stunning” direct statement from the
president himself. Note also the difference between Hikind’s claim that the president cited Abdullah as ‘his favorite leader’ in the Middle East and the actual, far less incendiary observation made by Bush’s aides that Abdullah is ‘the one leader in the region who has earned Bush’s respect.’
One wonders how Hikind would compare Mr. Bush with Bill Clinton as far as the Middle East is concerned. Hikind is silent on this, but keep in mind that he publicly toyed with the idea - almost up to Election Day - of endorsing Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate in 2000 despite her public support for her husband’s disastrous Mideast policy and despite her infamous embrace of Suha Arafat just after the latter made several scathingly anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic comments. (In the end Hikind endorsed neither Clinton nor her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio.)
Perhaps Hikind, being a consummate politician, is taking seriously reports that Hillary
Clinton may soon run for president and Bill Clinton even sooner for mayor of New York.
New York, NY
Israeli Haredim And Government Subsidies
This month’s Jewish Observer has an article lamenting the fact that budgetary cuts by the
Israeli government have been heavily weighted against the Torah community. The article
describes the paralyzing sacrifices that Kollel families will now have to shoulder.
This is indeed very sad. In an economy that has been so adversely affected by intolerable acts
of bloodshed, the Israeli government has been forced to make some difficult decisions.
But I must protest the myopia of those who so bitterly decry the present situation. Do they not
see the error of their own ways in all of this? Where was the hakaras hatov during all the “good” years? I never heard any expression of gratitude to the Israeli government for supporting Torah institutions. Huge sums of money were allocated for use by the haredi community with nary a thank you in return - in fact, the response was mostly bitter criticism.
Is it any wonder that these budgetary cuts seem to be geared toward haredim? Whom, after
all, did the electorate choose to be in the government, United Torah Judaism? No, it was
Shinui, a new secular party that was swept into power, and their representatives are merely
following through on their campaign promises.
The great question is, how did the frum olam in Eretz Yisrael get into this mess? Could it be we were too reliant on the government? Could it be that we were too indiscriminate in who and how many people we allowed into the kollel system?
Maybe it’s time to reassess our priorities and re-evaluate our goals. Not every yeshiva student
should seek a lifetime in kollel. There should be programs that encourage some of the yeshivaleit to take simultaneous programs in career training.
To be sure, klal Yisrael needs gedolim as well as other klei kodesh. But we need to insure that the right people are learning full time in order to achieve the great heights in learning necessary to become gedolim. These are the people who should be supported with available government funds.
There are far too many people learning full time who come to realize in their 20s or 30s that
learning full time wasn’t really meant for them. Meanwhile, they’ve received tremendous financial support from the State of Israel. So, after numerous years of being supported, and at a time when they already have large families, they start entering the job market ill equipped for decent employment.
Our rabbinic leadership has been enormously successful in creating the system of learning Torah l’shma, which is so necessary for our continued existence. But in the process, bnei Torah have become a dependency class. Avreichim who might have chosen a path more suitable for themselves have instead been encouraged to follow the singular path of learning full time.
If there are 20,000 people learning full time in Israeli yeshivas, at least 25 percent should
probably be doing something else. If this population were reduced by 5000 people there
would be more than enough government funds available for the rest. And the 15,000 remaining yungeleit would be the ones who deserve the stipends.
I want to make one thing clear: I encourage anyone who desires to do so to continue
unencumbered learning a year or two after marriage. But for some avreichim there should
have been a dual program prior to their marriage where work or professional skills were learned. Training should begin after two or three years of learning full time post-high school and divided between learning Torah and learning a parnassa.
One may ask, what about late bloomers? Wouldn’t they be discouraged by being steered into
a parnassa? No. If one goes to college at night he is still learning quite a bit the rest of the day, and a late bloomer will still blossom.
Learning a parnassa is not an impediment to gadlus.
Following this approach would lessen the burden on society and provide motivated baalei
battim who would be able to provide additional support for those klei kodesh who have the
potential to become leaders and teachers for all of klal Yisrael.
As we predicted, an Arab effort to arrange a ceasefire in the Middle East took center stage for several days this past week, with countless, well-publicized meetings of Egyptian diplomats, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and Hamas leaders. As is now known, that effort, at least for public consumption and at least for the next few days, has failed. Having counted on the worldwide horror over the carnage wreaked by Hamas, and misreading
President Bush - the Rantisi crowd, Abu Mazen and Egypt, as the Arab world’s stalking horse, went through a public charade of seemingly earnestly seeking to stanch the violence. However, they knew full well that it was all simply an effort to work a presumably cowed world community and get through this period of Israeli resolve with Hamas still in possession of its weapons, and the Palestinian terror option preserved for the expected “road map”
negotiations to come.
Sensing an opening when President Bush spoke of being “deeply troubled” by the IDF’s targeting of Rantisi, the Arab side revealed its true colors. They thought Israel’s hands were about to be tied, and proceeded to offer a ceasefire if Israel would agree in advance to halt targeted assassinations, release Palestinian prisoners, and completely withdraw from all Palestinian administered areas in the West Bank. In sum, they were simply negotiating the realization of all of Hamas’ - and the Palestinians’ – short term goals. Of course, the “road map,” which the Arabs made a big thing of accepting, calls for the dismantling of the Hamas infrastructure. And it was the great mistake of Oslo to have surrendered parts of the West Bank to Palestinian autonomy in return for a promise of an end to violence. But this was just the latest example – and harbinger – of Palestinian negotiating methods.
What they did not count on was that Ariel Sharon, no matter how concerned about the attacks on Israelis, was not about to leave the Hamas leadership inviolate and free to plan even further attacks. And he certainly had no intention of negotiating for the end of the attacks against Israelis by throwing away the recent gains against Hamas and by granting Hamas time to regroup.
But by far the most critical miscalculation concerned President Bush. After seeing the encouragement the Palestinians took from his comment on the Rantisi attack that he was poised to clamp down on Prime Minister Sharon - the Jaffa bus bombing immediately followed. The President pointedly spoke of the need for the world community to take “harsh” action against Hamas and declared it and the other terrorist groups to be the impediments to peace. A negotiated ceasefire institutionalizing Hamas’ right to retain its weapons and aggressive capacity was not to be in the cards. Even State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “The idea of a cease-fire as a step along the way is a good one, but ultimately it has to lead to that kind of dismantlement that the President talked about, denying them the ability to carry out attacks.” It was not for nothing that Hamas condemned the President’s statement saying it amounted to “a new aggression” on the Palestinians.
But no matter. Count on the Palestinians to keep trying to push their agenda by any means possible - including terror - and to continue to try to exploit any hint of weakness on the part of President Bush. Thus, count on, in the very near future, both a new set of Hamas outrages and a renewed effort to arrange a ceasefire to once again test Mr. Bush’s resolve about allowing Israel to do what has to be done. And don’t think for a moment that, regardless of
what it says about the extent of his authority, Abu Mazen does not salivate at the prospect of Hamas being around with the ability to scare the heck out of the Americans.
Leon Wieseltier’s commentary on anti-Semitism (‘The Village Is Not Burning,’ June 6) is erudite and elegant. Simpler, I suggest anti-Semitism’s bared roots are envious hostility and
fear. Anti-Semitism is a primal, visceral result of antagonism to Torah truth.
The Commandments to the world come through us. Being number two is a very difficult position, especially when there are two of them – and their foundations are flawed. While
there are righteous ones in virtually all religions, and the human spirit seeks G-d in the short time we all have, the spirit is generally desperate and easily succumbs to sitra achra when
challenged about basic beliefs.
The battle against Hashem (and His people) has never stopped since Babel – since Nimrod, Semiramis and Tamuz.
Only Moshiach will end anti-Semitism.
Paul H. Goodley, M.D.
Los Angeles, CA
(Aliyah in two months, B”H)
No Excuse For Cartoon
Media Monitor is to be commended for calling our attention (Jewish Press, June 6) to cartoonist Dick Locher’s anti-Semitic cartoon which appeared recently in the Chicago Tribune. Its depiction of Prime Minister Sharon is more appropriate to the pages of the notoriously anti-Semitic Arab media than in the pages of a major American newspaper.
Locher’s cartoon follows the pattern of Nazi and the Arab/Muslim anti-Semites who promote horrific lies about Jews. Painting Sharon with a hooked nose and a non-too-subtle allegation that the Israeli leader’s decisions are based only on an insatiable appetite for money is insulting.
Responding to criticism for his offensive caricature of Israel’s democratically elected leader, Locher had this to say, “I was trying to go to bat for the American taxpayer. Israel is a good
friend, but let’s get an accounting of where the money is going.” That claim rings hollow. The two largest recipients of America’s foreign aid are Egypt and Israel. Has Locher dared to caricature Egypt’s president Mubarak in the same noxious vein that he used for Sharon? Or is he not concerned about an accounting of the two billion-plus dollars that U.S. taxpayers dish out to a nation whose people hate the United States?
Perhaps Mr. Locher could be induced to use his talents to similarly depict Arafat, who has diverted to his own account hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid meant for his own
Mr. Locher, your cartoon smacks of the kind of bigotry that would make Hitler proud.
Doubts Bush On WMD
I am astonished that The Jewish Press believes it is irrelevant whether weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, as long as Operation Iraqi Freedom brought about the downfall of Saddam Hussein (editorial, June 6).
Is it not important that our President tell us the truth? I am not so naive as to think that there are never times when national security dictates that certain things not be revealed. But the constant, orchestrated refrain from President Bush on down was that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S. because he possessed weapons of mass destruction which he could use himself or give to terrorists.
Actually, I would have thought that Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism and his horrible oppression of his own people would have justified Operation Iraqi Freedom. The president, apparently, did not agree. Moreover, organized deceit on this scale can never be tolerated in a democracy.
Editor’s Note: We have every reason to believe that WMD will, in fact, be found in Iraq. In any event, we do not condone “lying” by public officials. We do not, however, believe President Bush to be guilty as charged.
Please recall that, in addition to the WMD threat, President Bush regularly cited the issues of support for terrorism and Saddam’s oppression of Iraqis as justifications for unseating him. Also, as we have noted editorially on several occasions, nations do not always enjoy the luxury of being able to act on courtroom-quality evidence. In extreme circumstances, prudence requires that reasonable judgments and “guestimates” be made in the national interest. And it is common knowledge that prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam had WMD, yet he never accounted for them. At the very least, as we quoted William Safire in last week’s editorial, “The burden of proof was on Saddam.”
Reading your weekly apologias for President Bush’s pushing the “road map” down Israel’s throat, I am reminded of the Jewish establishment’s slavish support of the Oslo “peace process” which proved so disastrous. You were rightly critical, in my view, when publications such as the Jewish Week and the Forward touted the Oslo scam. Why are you now any different?
Editor’s Note: We believe the road map to be fatally flawed in the same way that the Oslo Accords were. Both are premised on the notion that peace will break out once there is a new Palestinian state. Both also are premised on Palestinian good faith and therefore contain the seeds of their own failure. What is different now, though, is that George W. Bush, not Bill Clinton, is in charge. We are hopeful that President Bush’s heretofore demonstrated forthrightness and resolve will make a difference in the Palestinian mindset. If it doesn’t, we trust the president will respond appropriately. Should he fail to do so, we can assure you The Jewish Press will strongly reconsider the support we’ve given him from the 2000 election onward.
Unconvinced By Follow-Up Letter
In his response last week to readers who criticized his first letter to the editor, Mike Senders proved the old adage about leaving well enough alone, no matter how bad it is.
For one thing, Senders waxed obviously disingenuous in trying to shrug off his initial derision of a rabbi for urging greater concern for the proper brachot to be recited for cereals and against wearing baseball caps on Shabbat (out of a concern for the limits of ohel).
Senders had introduced these comments about the rabbi by saying, in his initial letter: “Lately … we have been passing off many chumrot as halacha in our daily lives.” He then went on to disparagingly refer to the particular rabbi who had issued the two alarms as the “Cereal Rav.” When we follow the Cereal Rav’s approach, Sender said, the Hashem’s true image true
image “is lost in the shuffle of legality.”
Last week, however, after acknowledging the negative reader reaction, Senders wrote: “What I meant to say was that the rav who compiled the detailed list of the different cereals was the
same rav who evaluated the wearing of a baseball cap on Shabbos through the halachic principle of ohel (tent). I in no way wish to impugn his Torah knowledge or cast aspersion on
Mr. Senders, give me a break.
And then, in trying to impress his audience that he really hadn’t intended to denigrate the pursuit and observance of any of the Ribbono Shel Olam’s prescribed rules – even the obscure
ones – but had another point to make, he slips into outright absurdity with this statement: “My point is that unless we incorporate into the teaching of brachot the idea that a child should be saying, “Gee thanks, Hashem, for this delicious candy bar,” we may have fulfilled halacha and yet not conveyed to the child (or to ourselves) an emotional or spiritual charge of hakaras hatov to Hashem. At best then, the child ill say, “Boy I can now eat this cereal cause I have fulfilled every aspect of halacha.” This may be satisfactory to some readers but certainly not to me.” Pursuit of this extra dimension, he adds, is the “agenda” of the Modern Orthodox and what separates Modern Orthodoxy from the “ultra-Orthodox.”
Mr. Senders, you have got to be kidding. The whole thing was a joke, right?
Abuse Is Real
I agree with you that Newsday fell far short of the mark in documenting an alleged sex abuse “crisis” in our community (“Newsday And Abuse In The Jewish Community, editorial, June 6). However, I hope your criticism will not serve to diminish interest in the underlying issue. From what I have read in the media - including The Jewish Press – the past few months, we surely do have a very, very serious problem.
Great Neck, NY
Valid Point On Babysitters
Re Robert M. Solomon’s letter (‘Anti-Gentile Bigotry,’ Jewish Press, June 6) about two letters recently featured by Rebbetzin Jungreis in her column:
Mr. Solomon was mistaken when he referred to a non-Jewish babysitter who kept on making treif sandwiches for the young boy she was caring for. In fact, the letter in the Rebbetzin’s
column clearly mentioned that the babysitter was in fact a secular Jew.
Who knows whether she intentionally gave him treif sandwiches? But the babysitter was a Jew, and I think the person who wrote that letter to Rebbetzin Jungreis has a valid point. These parents, who I’m sure have good reasons for getting outside help, need to keep their eyes open and to be more involved in parenting.
Give Peace A Chance
As a strong supporter of Israel’s right to live in security and prosperity, an opponent of all acts of terror, and the father of two daughters living in Israel, along with their husbands and my eight grandchildren, I understand why there is much skepticism about the “Road map” for peace in the Mideast. At a time of widespread Palestinian terror which has resulted in Israelis being very much afraid to live their normal lives, go to public places, even to ride on buses, and the hatred that is being taught in Palestinian schools, and much more, I fully understand the feeling that peace is not possible at this time, and I recognize that previous Israeli efforts toward peace have been rebuffed.
However, I believe that we have a choice today between, in the words in the title of a book by Buckminster Fuller, “Utopia or Oblivion.” As difficult as it will be, if the Israelis and Palestinians, with the support of the United States and other nations, can find a way to live cooperatively in peace, using modern technology and the world’s resources, there can be far
better conditions for all the people in the Middle East and beyond. However, continuation of present animosities and policies threatens ‘oblivion’: endless violence, terrorism, war, economic recession, and environmental degradation, not only for the Palestinians and Israelis who are already suffering in so many ways, but potentially all the world’s people.
I believe, respectfully, that it is time that we moved beyond finding reasons to demonize our opponents, and started using our wisdom and resources to seek creative ways to end the present horrors and impasse and seek a long lasting solution that will benefit all of humanity. George Bush, Ariel Sharon, and Mahmoud Abbas deserve much credit and support for their
initial steps toward peace.
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
College of Staten Island
Staten Island, NY
Dr. Stern’s Turn
A few years ago, in the wake of a number of monetary scandals which sullied the frum community, a group called the Orthodox Caucus promoted stricter adherence to the principle of dina d’malchusa dina (following the law of the land). I mentioned this Modern Orthodox offshoot to an incisive rabbi who remarked, “For the Modern Orthodox to chide the frum over financial indiscretions is one thing. For the frum to return the favor regarding the neglect of learning is another thing. But if the Modern would criticize itself for not learning, and the frum would chastise itself over money matters, now that would be something!”
I was quite heartened by the readers (Letters to the Editor, May 30) who took Mike Senders to task for insinuating that there are paths to Hashem which do not revolve around Torah study and mitzva observance.
Certainly there are differences among the various camps of Orthodoxy, but there are also
significant commonalities. We are all unwavering in our belief in Torah and mitzvot. We are all
concerned with the plight of our brethren, both here and abroad. And we are all united by the
belief that we can hasten the coming of Moshiach by following the directives of the Torah and the guidance of our religious leaders.
What we must be mindful of is the principle “eileh v’eileh divrei Hashem” – two seemingly
different positions are nonetheless capable of reflecting G-d’s wishes. Hillel and Shammai were
both right. The Baal Shem and the Vilna Gaon were both right. For contemporary Judaism, Rav Moshe and Rav Soloveitchik were both right. That there are individuals in each group seeking to sow discord, is simply a reflection of the attitudes which keep us in this bitter exile.
Admittedly, the task at hand is enormous. We must root out those in the yeshiva world who use the “system” for personal gain rather than spiritual growth. Similarly, we must call the lie of
those who play fast and free with halacha yet hide beneath the blanket of Modern Orthodoxy. And of course we must find a way to restore the primacy of ruchnius over the gashmius which has engulfed religious Jewry.
Impossible you say? Let’s recall the words of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, zt”l. “When I was
young, I tried to change the world and got nowhere. Later I realized that the first step was to change myself. When I accomplished this, the world changed.”
If we work on self improvement instead of carping on other people’s faults we can effect great
changes. Hopefully the baseless and idiotic – yes idiotic – charges that I am against any valid form of Judaism have been refuted. Those who have objectively read my contributions over the past year would admit that the message has been unremittingly positive, which is to say pro-Torah and its true practitioners. But those in the opposing camp will not be persuaded, because they are, in a word, untruthful.
As Exhibit A we present Mike Senders’s “half-vast” attempt at damage control. After unequivocally stating his vision of Modern Orthodoxy, “pick and choose” halacha, Zionism,
secular study above Talmud Torah and disdain for religious leaders, Mr. Senders offers a series of “I didn’t mean it.” In the course of this “apology” Mr. Senders invokes the name of the revered Rabbi Soloveitchik, hoping to legitimize his stance. This is a common practice: to advance a form of Judaism absolutely antithetical to the gaon and then suggest that he would endorse it. This is similar to a treif restaurant placing an unauthorized teudat hakashrut, but it’s worse because Rav Soloveitchik is not here to distance himself from these claims.
For many years our gedolim railed at the illegitimate brands of Judaism (Conservative, Reform, etc.) While I have no fondness for those halachically challenged movements, at least they don’t pretend to be authentic versions of Torah Judaism. Instead they promote a watered down version of the religion, seemingly amenable to the modern milieu.
But the militantly Modern Orthodox are guilty of just such deception, not owning up to the
fact that their concept of Judaism is at odds with our longstanding traditions and beliefs. If truth is beauty …
Dr. Yaakov Stern
Shidduchim: There’s Got To Be A Better Way
Like a lonely cry in the night, I fear this letter will be the only protest to the idyllic shidduch as
described on page 30 in your May 23 issue. So much craziness has become mainstream and
everyone is afraid of everyone else when it comes to shidduchim. But it is a sin to remain silent.
(Before I begin, a caveat. Based on recent controversies in this section, I recognize that certain readers may attempt to stamp me with a hashkafic label and proceed to challenge my
motives in writing this letter based on that assumption. In blindly defending the status quo,
they will scour my letter for a peripheral point or phrase they can pounce on and ridicule, while
ignoring the essential content. I ask you to resist that evil temptation.)
The gleeful mother of the bride describes her first encounter with her future son-in-law: “‘The
boy’ knocks on our door. Right on time. Black suit? Check. White shirt? Check. Black velvet kippa? Check. Yeshivish.
Tall, dark, handsome. Blue eyes peer out from behind wire-rims. A learner. We already know his essential details, as much as a 20-year-old life can have acquired.”
After some polite chit-chat, the daughter descends the stairs like a princess coming to greet
her knight in shining armor. “Their eyes lock. A spark. Off they go: Date #1. Date #2. Date #3. Then the decision: is there a Date #4? Yes! And then they get married. Well, OK, I’m exaggerating. But that’s how quick it seemed.”
This article is described as Part 2 of this family’s “whirlwind adventure” as their daughter gets married. I can only hope that Parts 5 and 6 of this adventure do not appear in the Agunah
Chronicles, which your paper commendably prints week after week. It is no coincidence, after all, that the tremendous increase in unsuccessful marriages (from unhappy to abusive) is concurrent with a “shidduch crisis” unlike any the Jewish people have seen before. The correlation is unmistakable. One only has to look.
Many readers will scoff and say that the shidduch system as described above works just fine
for many people. To that I respond, quite bluntly, that Hashem (sometimes) watches over fools. There are many imbeciles who are blessed with wealth and happiness. Their success is not a vindication of their methods, only a testament to Hashem’s supreme authority. Chazal adjure us not to rely on miracles, but to perfect our earthly efforts in anticipation of divine assistance. Are we lemmings to blindly adhere to a perverse shidduch system simply because it works for some people?
And a perverse system it is. The mother in this story claims, on first glance alone, to already
know the “essential details” of her daughter’s suitor. The color of his attire and style of his kippa render him “Yeshivish” (a meaningless label - but this is not the place to discuss labels). Presumably, she has already determined that the boy in question is of sterling religious background who studies Torah with extreme diligence (most likely to the exclusion of all else), with an impeccably refined character to boot. In this assessment she has surpassed Hashem Himself, Who thoroughly analyzes the totality of a person’s heart and actions before arriving at a conclusion. She did it with a single glance at his attire.
There was a spark, a hint of “love at first sight” between the new couple. After three dates
(perhaps the number has some mystical significance), it was necessary for them to decide
whether their relationship was to become “serious.” Now or never. Take it or leave it. Whirlwind adventure, indeed!
Emshol lachem mashal. As an educated educator, I am well aware of a serious conflict facing teachers today: standardized testing. There is tremendous pressure on everyone for students to
do well on such tests as Regents, Advanced Placement Exams, and the SAT. As a result, many teachers do what’s called “teaching to the test.” In other words, they teach students over the course of the year whatever is necessary to do well on the test, but the students learn little of the actual material. The test, which is supposed to measure their knowledge of the subject, actually measures only their ability to do well on that particular test. The results are essentially meaningless.
Similarly, this shidduch system relies on a host of superficial assessments to appraise one’s
suitability. The boy knew full well what to wear and say in order to make a good impression, so what does it prove that he adhered to the script? Both the girl and the boy were carefully coached on how to conduct themselves on the first three dates, so what did they really learn about each other – how well they can follow simple instructions, how well they can conform to societal pressures? No wonder there are so many disastrous marriages. People try to devise creative questions to ask about a potential shidduch, or they enlist professional gossipmongers and character assassins to conduct “investigations.” But this has achieved nothing other than to make everyone paranoid at all times about harming their or their children’s shidduch chances. This can’t be the way Hashem intended it.
In this same issue of your paper, a ba’al teshuvah wrote a letter bemoaning the way ba’alei
teshuvah are treated like garbage in this shidduch world, which has no mercy for an imperfect history. (Strangely enough, he commended the community’s shift to the right, a shift that is surely responsible for his shidduch woes. To the right of what I can only wonder, as the Torah commands us to veer neither to the right nor to the left of the truth.) I’d like to remind your readers that Moshe Rabbeinu married a convert, the daughter of an idolatrous priest. Yehoshua married a convert as well, someone who, according to most commentaries, was a former harlot. And Rabbi Akiva’s wife, whose father had enough money to buy the husband of her choice, “settled” for a lowly shepherd. It seems our greatest leaders were not “yeshivish.” Perhaps we should look farther back in history than the Europe of a hundred years ago to
determine what values the Torah truly holds dear.
Hashem has not decreed a shidduch crisis upon us. We have done it to ourselves. Let’s truly
analyze our ways in an open and honest fashion, and surely He will bless us with an end to this
Far Rockaway, NY