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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Boteach’

Cory Booker, NJ Torah-Versed Black Christian, on Way to Senate

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is leading the Democratic primary polls and if he wins, he is a shoo-in for a general election victory to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate.

Already touted as possible presidential candidate in the future, Booker’s interest in Jewish studies began approximately 20 years ago when he met a Chabad rabbi. A “chavrutah” Torah study partner is – who else? – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

The Wall Street Journal noted Monday that his wide contacts with Jewish sources have helped him fill his campaign chest, even though Lautenberg’s family is far from thrilled with his candidacy and have endorsed one of his opponents, Rep. Frank Pallone.

Booker, a black Christian, usually appears at a Passover Seder, and he is so interested in Israel that he once took his parents to visit the Jewish state.

His knowledge of Judaism “could put many of us to shame,” New Jersey philanthropist and Jewish Federation leader Lori Klinghoffer told the Journal.

Booker has been in politics since a young age, after having grown up in a predominantly white upper-class borough of Bergen County. His parents were among the first black executives at IBM.

After earning a law degree at Yale, he moved to Newark to become a tenants’ rights attorney when he was  only 27. He quickly moved into politics and was elected to the city council in 1998. Booker narrowly lost his seat in 2002 but regained in four years later and then became mayor.

AIPAC, NORPAC, Stay Neutral in Race between Rabbi Boteach and CAIR Supporter Pascrell

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is running for US congress in the 9th Congressional District in New Jersey.  He is pro-marriage, pro-security, pro-democracy, pro-Israel, and pro-Arab (as in pro-democracy and western-style freedoms for Arabs).  His opponent, Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr., signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter blasting Israel for what it called “collective punishment” of Gazans by blockading food and medicine — not true — and reserved a meeting space for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Capital building, and has done his best to help block the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani.

This particular election should be an easy choice for pro-Israel voters.  Should be, but something’s missing.

Other than the Republican Jewish Coalition and the locally-based Jewish paper, The Jewish Voice and Opinion, Rabbi Boteach doesn’t have the public support of major pro-Israel political organizations behind him.  In fact, although critics attack groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the single issue NORPAC political action committee as being blindly supportive of Israel, neither one of these political heavyweights are actively supporting Boteach’s bid for congress.

Why?

Both NORPAC and AIPAC typically support the incumbent in a race, unless he or she has failed to meet what is sometimes criticized as a “fairly low benchmark.”

Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC, told The Jewish Press that, in general, if an incumbent has a “good voting record,” which means largely that they “vote for U.S. aid to Israel, vote in favor of pro-Israel Resolutions, and have voted in favor of Iran sanctions,” they are considered a “friendly incumbent” and NORPAC will support them.  There are a few exceptions, but those are rare.

One example of such an exception was in the bruising primary campaign preceding this general election in NJ’s 9th, when Pascrell defeated his Democratic opponent, the fiercely pro-Israel Steve Rothman.  That battle was a Middle East conflict set in the Garden State.  A major Pascrell supporter, Dr. Aref Assaf, the president of the Arab American Forum authored an op-ed contemptuously referring to Rothman as being “Israel’s man.” Assaf also denounced Rothman as an “Israel-firster,” as in Israel was more important to Rothman than is the United States.

Even though both Pascrell and Rothman were incumbents with “good voting records,” NORPAC supported Rothman in the primary because he had an “extraordinary record on Israel.” However, NORPAC is now treating the NJ 9th election as an “open seat.” This means that they will bundle funds for either contestant, if asked.  “But,” Chouake said, “NORPAC is not making donations from their general fund for either candidate.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the kind of red line drawn by the major pro-Israel political organizations.

Chouake admitted that Pascrell signing the Gaza 54 letter and supporting Imam Qatanani were problematic.  “But Qatanani is a constituent of Pascrell’s, and the decision about whether to deport the Imam is a judicial one, not a congressional one.”

Maybe so, but Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation on behalf of Qatanani, the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey, calling him “peace-loving” and “magnanimous.”  That’s hard to square with information provided by Steve Emerson, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.

Emerson wrote that Qatanani’s deportation case centered on the Imam’s lying on his immigration documents about having been arrested by Israel for membership in the terrorist organization Hamas.  But even while in the United States, Qatanani has openly displayed his hatred and contempt for Israel.  He allegedly referred to the creation of Israel as “the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the Earth,” and has called for supporting the children of homocide bombers. It is difficult to reconcile that with the words in Pascrell’s affidavit and his 2008 description of Qatanani whom he said, “put so much time into bringing peace for all of us. Thank you imam, for all you’ve done for America since you’ve come here.”

On the other hand, although AIPAC and NORPAC are sitting out this election, the pro-Israel sugar daddy/mama team of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have contributed directly to Boteach, as well as to a Boteach-connected super PAC.  In total, their contributions to Boteach account for more than half a million dollars.  The cash-infusion, in turn, led the Republican National Congressional Committee to upgrade Boteach’s campaign to “Contender” status.  That new status ensures Boteach will be the further recipient of important support from other GOP congressional leaders and other campaign accoutrements.

In fact, riding the wave brought on by the Adelsons’ donations, Rabbi Boteach is currently in Florida, attending the Republican National Convention.  The Jewish Press caught up with him in the RJC lounge.

What pushed the world-famous celebrity rabbi, author and reality show star to choose politics as his next frontier?

He says he “wants America to refocus on values, but not the side show ones on abortion and gay marriage.”  Boteach wants to focus on “supporting marriage, offering vouchers for school choice, and granting tax breaks to corporations to close on Sundays.”

He pointed out that “before the big brouhaha surrounding Chik-fil-A and gay marriage, the chain deserved attention for its astronomical growth, even though all the outlets were closed on Sundays.” His point is that being family-friendly does not have to have negative economic consequences for businesses.

When asked what distinguished him from his opponent who has what some professionals claim, is a “strong pro-Israel record,” Boteach let loose.  “Look, the number one issue threatening Israel is Iran.  But right behind that is the international delegitimization of Israel.  And Pascrell is one of the foremost congressional participants in that delegitimization.”

“Pascrell has engaged in a blood libel.  It was an astonishing act of ignorance for Pascrell to sign the ‘Gaza 54′ letter.”  That letter, according to Boteach, “charged Israel with engaging in collective punishment by falsely claiming they deny food and medicine to the Gazans.”  Pascrell has stood by that letter, saying he did not regret signing it.

Boteach asked, “what is the point of having the pro-Israel red line be support for aid to Israel, if, when every time Israel uses that aid to defend herself, she is accused of things like ‘collective punishment?”

Boteach is clearly disappointed by the lack of expected support.  Nonetheless, with the clout added to his campaign by the large financial show of Adelson support, Boteach was invited to address the RJC’s Salute to Pro-Israel Elected Officials at the Crowne Plaza Westshore Hotel last night.  Boteach is hoping that, “G-d willing,” at the next Republican Convention, he’ll be part of that audience.

AIPAC expressed disinterest in speaking on the record.  Congressman Pascrell’s campaign spokesman Keith Furlong did not respond to a request for comment.

Rabbi Boteach: ‘Turn Friday Night Into Family Night’

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Social conservatives constantly bemoan the erosion of traditional family life and morality. In their view, narcissism and materialism plague the American landscape.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of the Jewish Values Network, host of the television program “Shalom in the Home” on TLC and the acclaimed author of over 20 books, believes he has a solution – or at least the beginning of one. He wants millions of American families to join his new initiative and “Turn Friday Night into Family Night.”

“As America debates in this time of financial crisis how we can restore the values that made this country great,” Boteach told The Jewish Press, “in my opinion there’s nothing more important than recreating the family, creating real family values. And to do that you need family time.”

If Boteach’s dream comes to fruition, families across the country will spend two “unplugged” hours – no television, phones, or blackberries – together every Friday evening, with two guests around the table, discussing two meaningful issues or engaging in two family activities. He hopes that President Obama, who according to The New York Times greatly values family dinners, will also participate.

“Look,” Boteach argues, “Obama says he wants to change things. Now change doesn’t just mean change the economic policies. You have to change the root causes that got us into this economic mess. The number one cause is greed. Now greed is not an economic issue, it’s a spiritual issue . To fix that, you have to recreate families.”

Boteach envisions a monthly national lottery for families signed up to his initiative, with the winner joining the first family for dinner at the White House.

Boteach is not the only one excited about his project. Alan Colmes, former co-host of the Hannity & Colmes TV show, told The Jewish Press he thinks “Turn Friday Night into Family Night” is a “wonderful idea” and praised the program’s “message of families devoting time to be with each other, inviting friends over, and focusing on their friendship and caring for each other.”

Lisa Oz, a New York Times best-selling author and frequent co-host of “The Dr. Oz Show” on Oprah & Friends’ XM radio telecast, was even more enthusiastic. “I think it just brings to the forefront the idea that a family is priority. It’s a time when you choose to be together, to talk together, to understand what’s going on with every member over the course of the week. A lot of families – we don’t – but a lot of families will actually have a television on even if they’re eating together, so there’s no real communication.”

She added, “Shmuley has often said that it doesn’t have to be a religious thing – it’s just a values thing – but I like the idea of keeping the conversation at an elevated level, making it really about something more than just eating. There’s an awareness and gratitude.

“We’re not Jewish, but we spend a lot of time with different Jewish friends at Seders and that whole idea of the cup for Elijah during Passover – I love that idea. It’s like inviting the Divine or a spiritual level into the evening, and I think that’s really lovely.”

Oz said that busy schedules unfortunately prevent her and her husband, Dr. Mehmet Oz – who often appears as a health expert on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” – from designating every Friday night for themselves and their four children. Nonetheless, she said they both make a point of regularly scheduling family dinners. Reminiscing on her own upbringing, Oz said, “I think for our generation spending time around the table was a time when our parents really could communicate their values to us without even making it a conscious thing . I think it was a really big part of my upbringing, and I think this generation is losing something because we don’t do it as frequently.”

Boteach knows that Shabbos Friday night dinners are a unique inheritance of the Jewish people. But he believes Jews should share their “gifts and treasures” with the rest of the world. “The question is: Who will give America its values? Will it be specifically Christian values or will the Jewish people finally have a seat at the table?”

He continued: “I have hosted tens of thousands of non-Jews at my Shabbos table over the years in Oxford, and here in the New York area and in New Jersey, and they’ve always said to me, ‘Gosh, why don’t we do this?’ ”

Boteach’s idealism of sharing Judaism’s light with the wider world contains an element of pragmatism as well. He argues, “How can we inspire young [secular] Jews to want to take their tradition seriously if that tradition, in their opinion, has no outside reach, has no ability to impact on the wider world, is basically irrelevant?… Rather than always trying to bring young Jews back to the fold, why don’t we bring Judaism to them? Why don’t we mainstream these Jewish ideas?…

“People say, ‘What do you need Jews and Judaism for anymore? The Jews gave the world a lot of important things like God but that was a long time ago.’ That’s why it’s so difficult to get young Jews to take pride in their heritage, because they don’t see that the Jewish people have any impact. I think the time has come for us to be a light unto the nations, and I think the idea of insulating ourselves away from the world when 80 percent of Jews are secular we’re going to lose them and we can’t.”

Boteach said that “Turn Friday Night into Family Night” is just the first of many national initiatives he hopes to launch through the Jewish Values Network. Commercials promoting “Turn Friday Night into Family Night” will soon start airing on several cable channels, and Boteach hopes one million Americans will sign up through his website, FridayIsFamily.com, by year’s end.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Offensive ‘Joke’

As an avid reader of The Jewish Press, I was dismayed by the inclusion of a highly inappropriate joke in Arnold Fine’s “A Bi Gezunt” column last week. I use the word “joke” advisedly, because there was nothing the least bit funny about the joke’s subject matter, and it certainly did not belong on the pages of a family newspaper, frum or otherwise.

Frankly, Mr. Fine should be ashamed of himself for even thinking that anyone would find anything humorous in such a joke, and The Jewish Press should in the future be more vigilant about what its contributors are permitted to write.

Suri Bernstein
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Response: A number of readers have taken us to task – and rightly so – for the joke referred to by Ms. Bernstein. This obviously was a case of a temporary lapse in judgment on the part of Mr. Fine coupled with a breakdown in editorial oversight. We apologize to all who were offended.

 
On A Positive Note
 
I would like to thank The Jewish Press and its many readers for helping to make a success of our Erev Pesach Felafel Campaign for poor Israeli families. Thanks to the generosity of Jewish Press readers, we were able to send 15 families – totaling more than 200 people – to our local falafel store for a felafel, french fries, and a drink.
 
The reach of The Jewish Press is truly amazing – we received checks from readers all over the United States and Israel. Again, a big Thank You to the management and readership of The Jewish Press for making this erev Pesach such a wonderful time for so many fine, frum Jews.
 
Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein
Jerusalem
 
 
Admiration For Moshe Kupfer

Though I am well past my “teens and twenties” – I guess I would describe myself as a grandmother who likes reading what young people have to say – I always enjoy the “Teens & Twenties Talk” page of The Jewish Press. I’d like to express my admiration for Moshe Kupfer, the young man whose column appeared at the top of that page in the April 28 issue. It is a beautiful and sensitive person who at the time of his wedding can acknowledge and show appreciation to his mother. His bride is fortunate indeed, because a young man who appreciates all that his mother did for him will surely appreciate his wife as well.

And to his mother I say: Well done. I wish you lots of nachat.

Nechama Mayerson
(Via E-Mail)
  

‘Lowered Expectations’

While reader Leib Garfinkle may have been “disappointed” by Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s assuming the worst about the young people of Boro Park and minimizing the reports of police overreaction (Letters, April 28), I was not. Call it a case of lowered expectations, but I have become sadly resigned to this type of kowtowing to executive authority on the part of our elected officials – and in this regard Mr. Hikind is far from the worst. Remember when, in the immediate aftermath of the Gidone Busch murder, then-Council member Noach Dear ran around the city defending the officers who treated poor Mr. Busch like a target practice cardboard cutout?

Our Jewish elected representatives suffer from a collective inferiority complex. They appear to view any controversy as an opportunity to curry favor with mayors and governors, and they seem to have a particular fascination with police officials. Perhaps these Jewish politicians subconsciously see themselves as the tummlers and shtadlanim of old, ever eager to let their friends in shul or at the corner grocery know just how many home phone numbers of decision-makers they have in their Rolodexes.

If only these appeasers would take a lesson from African-American politicians.

David Brodsky
New York, NY
 
 

Fur Flies Over Boteach Piece

I usually enjoy Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s articles in The Jewish Press and find myself in agreement with most of what he writes. But boy do I disagree with his latest (“The Fur Coats of Englewood,” op-ed, April 28). It is one thing to write about excesses in our lives and another to come off sounding like an advertisement for PETA.

On a cold winter’s day (or night), nothing insulates a person like a fur coat. Walking to shul on a freezing Shabbat, a lady in a fur has much to be thankful for as she keeps toasty warm. In fact I don’t think a fur coat is even considered a status symbol anymore, as so many women have them.

If Rabbi Boteach wants to do an “Al Chet” for extravagances, he should do it on his own account and not pick on women who may be giving greater amounts to charity than they spent on their coats.

By the way, I live in Manhattan and don’t own a fur coat. But one doesn’t have to be from Englewood to be annoyed by Rabbi Boteach’s article.

Amy Wall
New York, NY
 
 
Fur Flies II

Women wear fur coats because they feel warm and luxurious and look beautiful and fashionable. Further, fur coats are a real value, as they normally last much longer than any cloth coat. Because fur is resilient and lasting, it can by recycled, updated, and restyled time and time again.

And what is wrong with looking and feeling good on Shabbos? Isn’t it a mitzvah to wear our best attire in order to look good and honor the Sabbath?

Jewish women as a group have much responsibility and work very hard. They are usually in charge of keeping our homes, bearing and raising and chauffeuring our children, and, in most cases, helping to financially support the family. Does Rabbi Boteach really want to deprive them if they get some enjoyment from going to shul in a beautiful, warm, stylish fur coat on Shabbos? Perhaps he would have them remove their jewelry also?

Contrary to Rabbi Boteach’s article, fur coats are not made from exotic species – the fur trade is government regulated to ensure that endangered species are never used. God placed animals on this earth for man’s use (Bereshis 1/26) and God Himself chose garments of skins as His choice for clothing Adam and Eve (Bereshis 3/21).

It is no sin to like and enjoy nice things. Does Rabbi Boteach advocate that residents of Englewood (and Teaneck and Monsey and Boro Park) give up their million-dollar homes and move into more modest housing? Should they give up the new Lexuses or Lincolns in their driveways? It is these very folks who are tremendous baalei tzedakah and support shuls, yeshivot, mikvaot, and many other worthwhile endeavors.

So when Rabbi Boteach sees the women of Englewood walking to shul in their fur coats on a wintry Shabbos morning, he should praise Hashem for the abundance and wealth He has heaped upon His people, and praise the women for being such eishai chayel, for walking to shul in the bitter cold even when they have no chiyuv to daven with a minyan, for their wonderful midos and for their tremendous chesed and tzedakah.

Ira Widman
Edison, NJ
 
 
On Darwinism, Time And Language

Re the recent debate on evolution in your Letters section:

In considering the scientific findings about the past, it seems to me vitally important to distinguish between the findings themselves and the conclusions that have been drawn from them. It appears that from the very first, Darwinism was associated with social Darwinism. Evolution was said to favor the “fittest,” i.e., (in the eyes of the theorists) the “strongest,” those who would prevail over their fellows in “competition” which was and should be “ruthless.” Thus, removing the inhibitions against ruthlessness would lead to the evolution of the superior human – the “master race.” The Nazis were not the only ones who held these ideas; they were just the most shameless about putting them into practice.

Social Darwinism is not “scientific” in the sense of being a logical conclusion from the evidence. Many have pointed out that survival of a species can depend on many factors, including adjustment to the environment, protection of the young, cooperative behavior – all of which can be hindered, not helped, by competition. We see clearly from the “experimental results” that removal of inhibitions leads only to degeneracy.

But those who set up the theory of evolution against belief in the Creator seem, alas, to have been influenced by the Evil Inclination, which is always on the watch for excuses to believe that “there is no judgment and no judge.” They therefore published their findings as a “refutation” of faith.

Unfortunately, it seems that many people of faith have taken the bait. Instead of recalling the Psalmist’s “A thousand years in Your eyes are but a single day” and “How manifold are Your works,” instead of greeting with awe the revelations of the vast extent and intricacy of creation, they in turn have set up the authority of scripture as a barrier to block out all the vast horizons that have opened up.

The proper approach to “evolution” lies not in trying to discredit the evidence that the early ancestors of humans – in times so remote that the limited human mind cannot grasp how remote they really are – were primitive mammals. What we need to understand is that this in no way refutes Creation.

What this is really about is our relation to time. To have experienced hashgacha pratit (the Hand of Providence) is to realize that while on one level time seems to move forward – with what comes earlier appearing as the “cause” of what takes place later – in reality everything is brought about by God, Who is outside time. From the perspective of hashgacha pratit, what happened earlier may actually have occurred for the sake of what was to come later. When Moshe Rabbeinu saw the bush that burned but was not consumed, he saw that linear time (in which, of course, whatever burns must consume itself) is not the whole story.

Two final notes about the Genesis account: First, God creates the world by means of words – words that name things and express intentions about them. That is the nature of language. Science has not only “discredited” faith, it has also worked to discredit language itself as an instrument for grasping reality. But without language everything reverts to chaos and formlessness. (I am thinking of Helen Keller’s account of how the learning of a single word – “water” – turned a dark and silent chaos into a world.)

Second, is it possible for us to look at this problem, as it were, from God’s point of view? Suppose God wanted to tell us about the world He made and our place and purpose in it. Would it have made the slightest sense for Him to go into all that stuff about the Big Bang and the quarks and natural selection? He’d never have gotten to the mitzvot, and we wouldn’t have understood anyway, just as we don’t really grasp the enormity of His work even today. So He gave us an account we could absorb.

Now that we have a lot of new information about how God went about the business of creation, we must do our best to integrate it into a path of Divine service.

Esther Cameron, Ph.D., J.D.
Madison, WI

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Lessons From Misfits

Pat Robertson declares that Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke was the result of divine wrath for dividing the Holy Land. The ADL’s Abe Foxman tells Robertson that his views are un-Christian. There are a couple of lessons to learn from these two misfits.

The first is that Foxman makes a better Christian than Pat Robertson, and knows less about such essential Jewish concepts as reward and punishment. The second should shame every religious Jew, particularly those who give a hechsher, even theoretically, to the notion of “land for peace.”

I don’t care about Robertson and his distorted motives. What is clear is that this non-Jew is mortified by the very notion of giving up an inch of the Holy Land. The tragedy is that he loves the land of Israel more than most Jews do.

Daniel Fuchs
(Via E-Mail)
 
 
 
Prayers For A `Gibor

In his hour of need I and my friends have prayed and chanted Tehillim 23, 120 and 121 for Ariel Sharon, who never “slept nor slumbered” when we, the Jewish people, were in danger. Over the years he developed the kills of a visionary, and I understand his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a visionary move. That’s why he gets along so well with President Bush – they are both visionaries when it comes to protecting their people.

I interviewed Ariel Sharon twice, once right after the Six-Day War when I served as a reporter and nightly newscaster for Radio UPI, and more recently when he headed the opposition Likud party. I have loved Ariel Sharon, this gibor milchama.

Ray Kestenbaum
Rego Park, NY
 
 
 
`Disastrous PM’

I know this will make me seem callous and cold, but I can’t get too worked up over the calamitous state of Ariel Sharon’s health. I certainly didn’t wish this on him, unlike some of the right-wing crazies who’ve been spreading their un-Jewish vile over the Internet. I hope he survives and recovers his basic functions. Obviously he will no longer be a public figure even if he pulls through this, so in that respect we can speak of him in the past tense.

Simply put, Sharon was a disastrous prime minister. A military hero, yes; a man whose military feats saved the lives of countless Jews, as well as the State of Israel itself, yes. But a good prime minister? Most emphatically not.

By giving up Gaza unilaterally, he set a precedent for future Israeli leaders. By permitting terrorists to creep ever closer to Israeli population centers, he endangered the lives of who knows how many civilians. By gutting the democratic process as he rammed through the Gaza pullout, he laid bare the myth that Israel is a democracy in any real sense of the word.

Worst of all, by uprooting thousands of Jews and destroying dozens of flourishing Jewish communities, he showed the world that no Israeli “facts on the ground” are permanent: Sinai 25 years ago, Gaza last year, maybe part of Jerusalem next year when someone like Ehud Olmert is sitting at the negotiating table.

It used to be that only the most far-out leftists acted like guilt-ridden interlopers, eager to give in to Arab demands to avoid being labeled “intransigent” or “aggressor.” Now Sharon, of all people, has given cover to the Left by making the dismantling of the Land of Israel a bipartisan policy. No wonder the leftists who hated him now love him so.

Shlomo Mizrachi
Jerusalem
 
 
 
Israel Needs Jewish Leader

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (“Israel Needs A Non-Jewish Prime Minister,” op-ed, Jan. 6) writes that it is time for Israelis to begin to look seriously at having a non-Jewish prime minister. Rabbi Boteach believes no Jew can stand up to the pressures of the non-Jewish world. He suggests an evangelical Christian for prime minister. Why isn’t Rabbi Boteach worried about the support an evangelical might give to missionary work in Israel? Further, why didn’t Rabbi Boteach suggest an observant Jew as prime minister – someone who believes in the territorial integrity of Eretz Yisrael based on the first Rashi inChumash that says Hashem rightfully gave us the Land?

As proof that non-Jews have ruled over Jews in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Boteach quotes the Gemara in Sota 41a that seemingly shows how the non-Jewish king Agrippa II was so beloved by the Jewish people. What Rabbi Boteach failed to point out is that the Gemara in Sota 41b indicates the Jews had no love for Agrippa – who flouted Jewish law and ruled by force – and flattered him only for reasons of self-preservation.

Rabbi Boteach’s proposal flies in the face of Jewish history and Jewish destiny. Israel needs a proud Jewish leader at its helm, especially in these uncertain times. It is sad to see how

little faith Rabbi Boteach has in our people that he feels we must search elsewhere for a worthy candidate.

Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
Montreal, Canada
 
 
Locking Out Science

As I read the responses (Letters, Jan. 6) to the recent letter by David Fass bemoaning the degradation of science in the yeshiva world (Letters, Dec. 30), I couldn’t help but feel regret. This regret was mostly that I had absolutely no idea of the meaning of the scientific jargon being bandied about. My yeshiva science teacher quit in a huff when I was in tenth grade and he was never replaced in the years that followed. The yeshiva’s science lab existed behind locked doors as a storage closet.

That was 20 years ago, so the greatest share of blame I cast on myself for not seeking to achieve a greater understanding of how the natural world works. My experience, I believe, is not the exception, but the rule. Six years ago, I attended a lecture on parenting led by a prominent educator in the yeshiva world. During the question and answer session, a lady raised her hand and asked why her son has so much homework in secular studies. “What do we expect our sons to be, scientists?” she asked.

I grew up in a shul where Ph.D.’s outnumbered lawyers and doctors. These were men who valued intellect. They were baalei chesed andmidos who were leaders in the community. Of my peers, and I include the dozens or perhaps hundreds of yeshiva students I knew in high school, beis medrash, and college, I know only one who earned a Ph.D., and I have great respect for his thirst for knowledge and for his tremendous personal and intellectual integrity. Those who disparage David Fass would do well to heed his advice instead.

This letter is submitted via the Internet from Monsey, where chickens haven’t turned to monkeys – but the fish have been known to speak.

David Barg
Wesley Hills, NY
 
 
Missing Midah

In her interview with Jason Maoz, Abigail Pogrebin says that she found that most of the well-known people she interviewed for her book were, to her surprise, non-observant (“Not Such ‘Stars of David,’” Dec. 30. She found this noteworthy and worth discussing. Many frum Jews can tell Ms. Pogrebin the main reason this is so: most Jewish celebrities, especially in the entertainment industry, are lacking a basic midah which keeps most of us out of the worldwide, or even the nationwide, public eye – the midah of tzniut (modesty).

Avi Schwarzmer
Fairfield, CT
 
 
Disturbing Ad

I was shocked and dismayed at the full-page add in your newspaper last week regarding the issue of metzizah b’peh. Unfortunately, a group claiming to be upholding the mesorah ofKlal Yisrael is engaging in reckless behavior and causing a chilul Hashem.

1. While it is difficult to quantify the actual risk of metzizah b’peh, there are several series of cases which have been unquestionably traced to this practice.

2. Neonatal herpes is a devastating illness and there have been fatalities reported.

3. Private warnings to leaders in segments of the community where this is widely practiced were issued several years ago.

4. The bet din the health department consulted failed to act.

5. The health department and commissioner have a legal obligation to protect the welfare of all residents of New York. This obligation is heightened for infants and children.

6. The health commissioner’s letter to all physicians was similar to the letter distributed to members of the Orthodox community. It alerted health care professionals to the signs and symptoms of neonatal herpes. Additionally, the obligation and public health requirement of reporting any infectious disease to the health department was included.

7. While the health commissioner has the legal right and obligation to ban dangerous procedures on newborns, the health department has issued advisories hoping that mohelim and community leaders would discourage the practice ofmetzizah b’peh.

8. The inability of rabbonim to modify the practice of metzizah in view of thesafek sakanah nefashot posed to babies is shocking. Unfortunately, we are a generation of orphans when it comes to Jewish leadership.

9. Amazingly, none of the cases currently being reported involved inappropriate behavior of mohelim. This is a testimony of the tahara of our mohelim.

10. The true enemies of Israel will seize the opportunity to ban not onlymetzizah but milah and shechita. Let’s not give them ammunition.

Tod J. Rothschild, MD
Oceanside, NY
 
 
Barney Ross’s Example

It was inspiring to read, in your Dec. 30 issue, that Jewish boxing champ Dimitry Salita has volunteered to take part in the upcoming Flatbush Park Jewish Center event to raise funds for the seven year-old Crown Heights yeshiva student who needs a third liver transplant.

As the niece of 1930s’ boxing champion Barney Ross, I was struck by a comment that Mr. Salita made in a recent public appearance. He said that “his role models are the greats of Jewish boxing before World War II, especially Barney Ross, for how they behaved inside and outside the ring.” I agree that my uncle Barney’s accomplishments outside the ring were as important as the boxing skills that won him the junior welterweight, welterweight, and lightweight championships.

In response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barney, though well past draft age (he was 32), enlisted in the U.S. army. In the famous battle of Guadalcanal, he was seriously wounded while rescuing injured comrades from a Japanese ambush. His heroism under fire earned him a Silver Star.

Thanks to research by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, we know that upon Uncle Barney’s return to the United States in 1944, he became active in the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, also known as the Bergson group. The Emergency Committee used full-page newspaper ads, public rallies, and Capitol Hill lobbying to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from Hitler.

Uncle Barney was also active in another of the Bergson committees, the American League for a Free Palestine, which sought to rally American support for the creation of a Jewish state. He spoke at its rallies and chaired its George Washington Legion, which recruited American volunteers to aid the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish underground militia (headed by Menachem Begin) that was fighting the British in Mandatory Palestine. The Legion was patterned on the famous Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which had recruited Americans to fight against Franco in the 1930′s Spanish Civil War.

One of the Bergson group’s newspaper ads featured a photo of Uncle Barney with this message from the boxing champ: “There is no such thing as a former fighter. We must all continue the fight.”

Barney Ross fought the good fight, inside and outside the ring. He fought for America in World War II, and he fought for the Jewish people in his efforts on behalf of Holocaust rescue and Jewish statehood. That is a powerful and inspiring example for today’s Jewish athletes to follow.

Audrey Cantor
Chicago, IL

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

Best Of Times, Worst Of Times

This November, American Jews have an extra reason for thanksgiving as we happily participate in numerous celebratory events to mark the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in the United States – a venerable and wonderful milestone.

Simultaneously, Israelis despondently disengage from their nine-times-older history. Despite Arab attacks, Israel finalizes its plans to reward terrorism by the surrender and erasure of all traces of Jewish life in the Gaza District and in northern Samaria – strategic and historical areas populated by Jews some 3,150 years ago!

These policies will not only greatly endanger the remainder of tiny Israel (a country less than half the size of Lake Michigan) but Jews globally. For if orchestrated violence inexorably leads to the expulsion of all Jews from entire portions of their ancestral homeland, then it can certainly do the same anywhere else in the world where Jews obviously have much weaker roots and connections to their respective places of residence.

Such policies can only serve as precedents, which will entice and embolden anti-Semites around the world to employ violence – a likelihood tragically exemplified in recent years by attacks against Jews in Buenos Aires, Djerba, Istanbul, Nairobi, Paris, and Taba. Consequently, it is very much in our own self-interest to take a prudent time-out from our celebrations and demand, for the greater good of Jews worldwide, that the Sharon government rescind its misguided and dangerous disengagement/expulsion policy.

The autocratic Mr. Sharon apparently needs to be reminded that Israel was created to be a safe haven for Jews and not a walled hi-tech ghetto. Furthermore, the primary function of a government is to protect and defend its citizens. It is certainly not to expel them and posthumously create a legacy for Yasir “Jihad” Arafat.

Only when all Jews can enjoy their inalienable rights to live safely and happily wherever they choose will we be able to celebrate fully.

Henry Moscovic
Flushing, NY




Don’t Depend On Liberals

In light of the weak support for George Bush exhibited by the liberal Jews of America, the Jews of Israel would be wise to forget the notion of American Jewry ever coming to help them in their life-and-death struggle with the Arab – and frequently the European – nations.

Evangelical Christians are by far the better friends of Israel than liberal American Jews. Any advice to Israel emanating from the liberal Jewish crowd – The New York Times, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, JCRC, ADL, Federation, etc. – is best ignored by Israelis if Israel is to survive.

The duplicity of America’s liberal Jews was evident as long ago as World War II, when they supported – some would say worshiped – Franklin Roosevelt, even though FDR allowed no Jews to be saved by America during the Holocaust, sending even the Jews fleeing from Nazi-occupied Europe on the SS St. Louis back to their certain destruction.

Let the liberal Jews stick with the likes of losers like John Kerry, Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid, et al., whose never-ending false promises of “peace” will, without God’s intervention, turn Israel into an Arab state.

Jerry Boris
Philadelphia, PA




One-Sided Pressure

I notice that The New York Times is pushing the idea that with the death of Arafat, it is now an appropriate time to put pressure on Israel to take dramatic steps for peace. My question is, has the Times ever said that in light of X, Y and Z, this is not a good time to put pressure on Israel?

It seems to me that when Israel is victimized by terrorist attacks, the Times says Israel must be pressured to make peace for its own good – and when Israel retaliates against terrorist attacks, the Times claims that force is not the answer and that Israel must make peace rather than continue to victimize innocent Palestinians.

I wonder when the appropriate time might be to pressure the Palestinians to make peace.

Rabbi David Alan Willig
Bayside Jewish Center
Bayside, NY




Necessity Of Secular Studies

Thank you for publishing Dr. Yitzchok Levine’s well written and much needed article on the secular studies situation in many of today’s yeshivas (“The Case for Secular Studies in Yeshivas,” front-page essay, Nov. 19). If secular studies in the yeshiva are a joke – if 45 minutes of math is not math – then someone will be accountable for bitul Torah.

I’m sure Dr. Levine and The Jewish Press are taking flak from the politically correct yeshiva-types over such thoughts. As a product of a “right of center” yeshiva that permits some secular education, I can only hope enough people will realize the impact of yeshiva graduates who cannot compete in today’s technology-based labor market. As a human resources manager I am constantly receiving calls from yeshiva/kollel fellows seeking entry level positions with only a “yeshiva degree.” It just doesn’t work!

It is time to begin a serious dialogue within the yeshiva world about this subject.

Shlomo Hoffman
(Via E-Mail)



Challenge For Dr. Levine

Dr. Levine makes a very strong case for how to integrate secular studies into yeshivas, but there is one major problem – the curriculum does not exist. The only options available to Jewish schools and Jewish homeschoolers are that of using secular public-school textbooks or taking a Christian curriculum and modifying it. Although the second option is a possibility for a Jewish homeschooler, no Jewish school would ever consider such an option.

So the question needs to be asked: Is Dr. Levine willing to take on the task of creating a Jewish curriculum that truly integrates Judaism into the secular studies to a level that will not only provide a strong Jewish foundation, but would also adequately prepare a student for college, if the student desires such a path? The community wants it. Will Dr. Levine help to provide it?

Christians have been integrating Christianity into their secular studies for a long time. When Montessori talked about her educational philosophies, God was an integral part. The same is true with Charlotte Mason. In current times, examples of this can be seen in Sonlight, Konos, Amblerside Online, and Tanglewood, to name just a few.

We don’t have to agree with Christians to learn from them.

Melissa Newman
Elizabeth, NJ


Correction: A key sentence in a letter in last week’s issue from Shanie R. Stern should have read: “I explained that I would only be there for one day and could afford to pay one hundred and fifty dollars for the three seats.”



Don’t Condemn Pius XII

Historical Evidence

In his op-ed article “The Pope’s Disgraceful Tribute to Arafat” (Nov. 17), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach condemns Pope Pius XII as “immoral,” “cowardly,” and a “Nazi collaborator.” As someone who has spent years conducting research in primary source materials for an upcoming book, I can say that the evidence regarding the pope’s conduct during the Holocaust and World War II suggests otherwise.

In his wartime encyclicals, speeches, and public letters, which fill seven thick volumes, Pius XII repeatedly championed human rights for all, condemned atrocities against all civilians, insisted on the protection of all racial minorities, and called for a return to the Christian principles of love and charity.

The Nazis recognized him as an enemy. For example, a report dated January 22, 1943 by the Reich Central Security Office (RHSA) on the pope’s 1942 Christmas address complained: “In a manner never known before, the pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order…. Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and he makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.”

If the pope was “silent” in the literal sense of the word, then perhaps Rabbi Boteach can explain how the Nazis reached this conclusion?

Far from being “cowardly” and “a Nazi collaborator,” Pius XII went above and beyond the call of duty in opposing the Nazis. In 1939-1940, the pope acted as an intermediary between a group of German generals who wanted to overthrow Hitler and the British government. Recently declassified documents in the archives of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) reveal that the pope also maintained close contact with the German Resistance until the end of World War II.

Throughout the war, the Vatican instructed its diplomatic representatives in many Nazi-occupied and Axis countries to intervene on behalf of endangered Jews. In October 1943, Pius XII ordered his secretary of state and another bishop to protest the roundups of Jews with Germany’s Ambassador to the Vatican and the German military governor of Rome. On the pope’s instructions, religious institutions opened their doors to thousands of Jewish refugees and other persons in Rome during the occupation.

As part of my research, I looked through many old Jewish newspapers at the New York Public Library in Manhattan to see how they covered Pope Pius XII. Consider a few headlines and articles: “Vatican Radio Denounces Nazi Acts in Poland” – Jewish Advocate (Boston), January 26, 1940; “Laval Spurns Pope – 25,000 Jews in France Arrested for Deportation” – Canadian Jewish Chronicle, September 4, 1942; “Vatican Gives Assurance of Aid to Jews” – California Jewish Voice, February 12, 1943; and “Jewish Hostages in Rome: Vatican Protests” – Jewish Chronicle (London), October 29, 1943.

If the allegations against the pope have any merit, isn’t it likely that the Jewish press in every part of the world have condemned him, as they did with the Rev. Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio broadcaster?

Rabbi Boteach would have us believe that Jews (on six continents) who praised Pius XII were either blissfully ignorant or extremely disingenuous (or both).

Dimitri Cavalli
Bronx, NY



In Their Own Words

I happen to be an Orthodox Jew whose study of history has convinced me that Pope Pius XII has been the victim of a massive campaign of defamation – a campaign inspired in the 1960′s by left-wing writers and intellectuals and perpetuated in the decades since by secularists who have sought to weaken the hold on Western society of traditional religion and morality.

I find it particularly troubling when Jews man the ramparts in the fight to diminish Pius XII and, by extension, the institution that saved so many Jews during those terrible times by hiding them in churches and monasteries; by issuing false documentation; by bringing diplomatic pressure to bear in Spain and a number of other countries; and by a variety of other methods great and small.

When we look at what people were saying about Pius XII during his lifetime and in the years following his death, we see a far different picture than the one Rabbi Boteach wishes to paint in his op-ed.

Dr. Rafael Contoni, who headed Italy’s Jewish Rescue Committee during the war, stated that “The Church and papacy saved Jews as much and in as far as they could save Christians. There would have been many more victims had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII.”

In June 1944, Albert Einstein, a refugee from Nazism himself, described for Time magazine his experiences prior to his escape: “Being the lover of liberty, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend freedom, knowing that they had already boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth: but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaring editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom: but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Then I looked to individual writers….They too were mute. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.”

The Israeli diplomat Pinchas Lapide wrote (“Three Popes and the Jews,” Hawthorn Publishers, 1967): “The Catholic Church under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands. This figure exceeds by far those saved by all other churches and rescue organizations combined.”

Finally, when Pius XII died on October 9, 1958, the foreign minister of Israel sent a telegram to the Vatican stating: “When fearful martyrdom came to our people during the time of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”

The foreign minister who wrote those moving words would, eleven years later, become Israel’s prime minister. Her name was Golda Meir.

Yitzchak Goldblatt
New York, NY

Letters To The Editor

Friday, October 3rd, 2003

Ten Commandments And Jews

The battle over the display of the Ten Commandments should be a Jewish battle. The Founding Fathers knew that the only way to prevent the authority of an established church state was to guarantee individuals freedom of conscience. They were also aware of the dangers if state law derived from the absolute moral authority of men. Therefore, G-d was acknowledged as the source of our rights, and American civil law was built upon the foundations of the Torah.

The rest was left up to the people, and for this reason America has been blessed and become great, granting us freedom never before realized and tolerance never before seen. If these foundations are removed we will become as all other nations – without a foundation based on rights for all endowed by our Creator.

Jews of faith should stand with Christians. The Ten Commandments do not force Christianity on anyone, but provide a basis for our civil law. Overall, American Christians have been very tolerant of Jews, even though secular Jews often take the lead in vilifying everything we hold
sacred. We still understand Israel’s plight and offer our support

Randy Sprinkle
(Via E-Mail)


Unmoved By Mayoral Visit

Mayor Bloomberg’s blink-of-an-eye visit to Israel was a very nice photo-op for a politician with a large Jewish constituency (David Dinkins did the same thing when he was mayor during the 1991 Gulf War, and he’s not even Jewish), but what exactly was the point?

The man was wrapped in a cocoon of protective security during the seven or eight hours he spent in Israel (I’ve sat in doctors’ waiting rooms for almost as much time), so I wasn’t exactly impressed with the grandstanding. Oooh, he rode a bus in Jerusalem? Let him do it like
average Israelis who travel without a phalanx of armed bodyguards – that’s impressive.

Sam Rieger
New York, NY


Dismayed By Rutgers Decision

I always thought of my alma mater, Rutgers University, in a positive light. I loved my college experience there. I am therefore shocked, disgusted and outraged that the governor of New Jersey and university officials are permitting a pro-Palestinian group that refuses to condemn
suicide bombings to hold a conference on the Rutgers campus.

This group is not merely exercising “freedom of speech.” It is encouraging murder and violence against a nation (Israel) and people yearning for peace. How will we ever have peace in the world when educational institutions like Rutgers encourage hate groups by giving them a platform to speak and send dangerous messages to the world?

Carol Braunstein
(Via E-Mail)


Plaut Too Harsh On Waskow?

Believing that war has never solved anything (except Nazism, Stalinism, fascism, tyranny, etc.), I may not share Arthur Waskow’s political views and, although I know it exists, I do not read Tikkun magazine. I am, however, appalled at Steven Plaut’s op-ed column “Ideas for Boojoos” (Jewish Press, Aug. 22). Plaut may disagree with Waskow’s political views, but that is no reason to disparage him as a Jew and to ridicule those associated with him.

Interestingly, two recent Jewish Press columns by Rabbi Yaakov Klass relate to this matter. One column, “Sinat Chinam Destroyed Our House,” speaks for itself. Ahavat Yisrael will deliver us from our long exile. Plaut’s attitude will keep us in exile and worse yet, makes it hard
for us to survive.

The other column by Rabbi Klass, “Reincarnation?” refers to “the monumental English work ‘The Dybbuk’ by Gershon Winkler.” Rabbi Winkler is a revered teacher in the very movement criticized by Steven Plaut. Even The Jewish Press itself has acknowledged the religious value of at least one thinker of this movement, though Plaut would have readers believe they are all worthless pot-smoking pagans.

Adriaan Finnerman
Poughkeepsie, NY


Catholic Silence On Gibson Film

The pope and other Catholic officials have condemned the movie ‘The Magdalene Sisters,’ which exposes and condemns the gruesome Magdalene asylums. These asylums imprisoned Catholic girls found to be ”disreputable” in some way and punished them for a lifetime. The girls would work seven days a week for no pay (while the nuns profited steadily). Inevitably these girls became broken in mind and spirit – all old before their time. Even harder to believe in this expose is the fact that the last asylum closed its doors in 1996! This practice, in Ireland, sanctioned by the church, existed almost to the 21st century.

In sharp contrast, the revival by Mel Gibson’s passion play has received not one word of condemnation from an ”enlightened” and newly ”sensitive” Catholic hierarchy.

Everyone who has ever breathed knows that in Europe these – passion plays, with their depictions of gory and horrific crucifixion scenes, would rile up the locals who would then go out for a bit of ”after-show fun” and kill any number of Jews unfortunate enough to have lived in their midst. During medieval times, this, well, medieval practice was particularly notorious for rape, pillage, and murder of the Jewish populace. The plays (and what followed) were
often, sanctioned by the clergy.

If it is a passion play Gibson wants, I have some 20th century horrors he can depict. Here are just a few:

Dr. Lucas, a physician at Auschwitz, testified in court in his own defense. Lucas told of the time he went on vacation to his native Austria. There, it seems, he confided to the archbishop of Asnabruck that he was injecting carbolic acid into the veins of Jewish children. The archbishop looked at him and said, ”You are merely obeying orders.”

The archbishop of Insburg once gave a similar answer to the commandment of Buchenwald concentration camp. When the commandment confessed that he had killed Jews – including many Jewish children – the reply was ”You are only doing your duty.”

During the Eichmann trial in the early 1960′s, a Canadian missionary who had lived in Jerusalem for thirty years stated that had the Nazi ‘accepted’ Jesus, he would have gone straight to paradise.

When it was pointed out to him that Eichmann had played such a major role in the murder of six million people, the missionary replied that it didn’t matter – Eichmann would go to Heaven if he professed faith in Jesus. That he died an unrepentant Nazi should, I suppose, make us all feel better.

The church, by being evenhanded and fair - by condemning what needs to be condemned, by uncovering the lies and deceptions instead of fostering them, by admitting to wrongs perpetrated and by atoning for them – will gain back some of what it has lost.

At any rate, recent horrors like the Holocaust, the Magdalene asylums, church pedophiles, and Mel Gibson’s passion play all need to be dealt with honestly and openly. Only then can the healing begin.

Rose Brennan
Brooklyn, NY



Still Troubled In The ‘Hood

Emulating Gedolim

I am saddened that Rachel Weiss misconstrued my letter to the editor on the continuing issue of “Troubles in the Hood.” And it was unbecoming of Ms. Weiss as a fellow Jew to make a snide remark about my last name, along with her other colorful comments (Letters, Aug. 22).

Ms. Weiss, I did not respond to your recent letter in order to verbally attack you, but rather to
be outspoken about a most basic principle of our Torah - ahavat Yisrael, loving our fellow Jew.

Everyone who has taken the time to write to The Jewish Press about this issue of saying ‘gut
Shabbos’ to passersby on the holiest day of the week - you coldly dismissed them as “all those
who are overly preoccupied and obsessed with the ‘greeting’ issue” – simply yearn for ahavat
Yisrael and unity.

Recently, I attended a women’s Torah class in Boro Park and one of the teachers taught that
if you do not say hello to someone you pass by whom you know (or know of) it is as if you have stolen or robbed that person of a greeting that had been expected. Ms. Weiss, we are not ‘obsessed with the greeting issue’; we simply want to connect with our fellow Jews – and that includes you.

You mentioned that “stresses and strains of today’s world and personal circumstance can lead
some, at times, to behave out of character.” Understood – but previous generations had
plenty of stress, some of which we can never fathom in our worst nightmares.

As for your interpretation of Sol Zeller’s beautiful letter, Mr. Zeller was not, chas v’shalom,
arguing that we should “compare ourselves to our gedolim, such as Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l.” I believe Mr. Zeller’s point was that we must strive to follow in their footsteps.

We are now in the month of Elul, when the King is in the field, and it is a golden opportunity
for each and every Jew around the world to strive to emulate our gedolim ? and that includes
trying to say ?gut Shabbos? to fellow Jews. 

On that note, Ms. Weiss, I wish you a gut Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Devora Leogrande
West Hartford, CT


What’s In A Name?

I was outraged at the insensitivity exhibited by Rachel Weiss in trying to make an issue out of
the name of a reader whose views she disagreed with. What’s wrong with the name ‘Leogrande,’ Ms. Weiss? Are you comfortable only with people named Schwartz or Goldberg? Do you know anything about the reader whose name you felt merited such churlish mention? Maybe she’s a convert. Perhaps she’s a ba’alat teshuvah who was married to a non-Jew. Or, quite possibly, she’s from a non-Ashkenazic background and so the name sounds exotic to Ashkenazi ears.

All I know is that when I compare Ms. Leogrande’s letter with those of Ms. Weiss’s that The Jewish Press has seen fit to publish, there is no question in my mind that Ms. Leogrande is the
type of person any sincere Jew would proudly call a friend and role model.

Because of the time of year, I’ll refrain from describing the type of person that Ms. Weiss
comes across as.

Shifra Zacks
(Via E-Mail)


Look Under Your Own Hood

In reading the recent letters to the editor regarding the lack of friendliness displayed by those who do not greet everyone they see on the street with a hearty ‘Good Shabbos,’ I came to
the following conclusion.

We all know the principle of dan l’kaf zechus, judging everyone favorably, giving the benefit of
the doubt. Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt’l, explained that this means that instead of finding faults in
others, we should find excuses for their behavior. We should seek positive explanations for their actions. In this particular instance, it is fairly easy. The neighborhood in question has one of the largest concentrations of religious Jews in the world. It is highly impractical (and monotonous) to say ‘Good Shabbos’ to everyone one passes on the street.

If that explanation is not acceptable, then consider that Chazal also say “Kol ha’posel, pasul.” In simple terms this means that one who finds a defect in another possesses the same fault,
which is why s/he was able to identify the fault and dwell on it to such an extent.

So, if you still are finding “trouble in the ‘hood,” you might want to take a moment, lift up
your own ‘hood’ and take a serious look!

Yisroel Friedman
Rocheser, NY



Two-Way Street

The problem of discourtesy comes from both directions. It doesn’t matter if you’re too much to the left or the right for a particular community.

There are those on the so-called Modern Orthodox left who are quite discourteous to
“yeshivish” Jews. When I first moved to Washington, DC, a woman who is very well known
in Democratic circles suggested to me that I would prefer living “among my own kind” in Silver
Spring.

While I know some fantastic people in Georgetown, I was very badly treated by those members of the community who follow their rabbi who has publicly expressed contempt for
“right-wingers.” It wasn’t until later that I realized that while that community called itself
‘Modern Orthodox,’ it doesn’t really fit that category.

A truly Modern Orthodox community, such as the one in which I lived in Matawan, New
Jersey, treats fellow Jews exactly the same as a truly chassidic community, in accordance to the Torah. It is a fallacy that discourtesy and contempt comes from only one direction. It must
be stopped at the source from the left, too.

Asher Kaufman
Fairfax, VA


Dr. Laura’s Rejection Of Orthodoxy

Might The Fault Be Ours?

I think well of both Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Dr. Laura Schlesinger, but was turned off by
the rabbi’s dismissal of her recent apparent disappointment with Orthodoxy (‘Dr. Laura: Fair-
Weather Jew,’ Jewish Press op-ed, Aug. 29).

It’s interesting that Rabbi Boteach has bent over backwards to avoid labeling as anti-Semitic
Oxford professors such as Andrew Wilkie, who hates Israel with a passion, but is quick to
denounce Dr. Laura as a shallow, fair-weather Jew. I would have thought he’d be more
empathetic towards her feeling that Orthodox Jews have been very unsupportive (whereas
Christians have been supportive).

Frankly, I think Orthodoxy should be grateful to have had her on its side in the public debate about Israel, morality, family values, the gay agenda, and thus we should feel regret, not
contempt, that something has seriously turned her off.

Could that turnoff stem from the very phenomenon that readers and columnists have been addressing in The Jewish Press these past few months – namely, the sad lack of warmth,
respect, camaraderie and derech eretz on the part of Orthodox Jews in their interaction with other Jews, perhaps converts especially?

Pinchas Baram
Brookline, MA



Questions Criticism

I was shocked to learn that Dr. Laura Schlesinger a) has given up on observant life, b)
felt little in return for her keeping of mitzvas, and c) at the expense of Jews praised her Christian friends for what she described as their loving relationship with G-d.

Yet, while I admire Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, I have to question his criticism of Dr. Laura.

Rabbi Boteach says that our relationship with Hashem is not based on feeling spiritual and
fulfilled. Why put down Dr. Laura - someone who wants to be close to G-d – if that’s what she needs? Different people connect to Hashem in different ways and the reality in today’s stressful world is that there are many people like her. A more useful article would have suggested means for Dr. Laura and others to find the inspiration they seek.

Dr. Laura claims she was hurt by not getting enough positive feedback from Jewish supporters. If this is true, isn’t it another example of some Jews treating others poorly, as in the
long-running discussion in The Jewish Press about Shabbos greetings?

Dr. Laura extolled morality to millions of people in the name of Judaism and G-d. Perhaps
she would feel differently today had she received hakaras hatov through a few simple e-mails and faxes – and newspaper articles.

Robb Ross
(Via E-Mail)


Conversion, Materialism And Mitzvos

While Rabbi Boteach correctly took Dr. Laura to task, perhaps there is a larger issue to be addressed: unwarranted conversions. The principles of conversion are derived from Megillas
Ruth. When Naomi’s daughters-in-law indicated their willingness to accompany her back to Israel, she discouraged them. Orpah returned to her roots, but Ruth remained steadfast and became the prototype of the ger (giyores) tzedek. This became our model - dissuade at first, but embrace if we recognize sincerity.

The inherent difficulty is that there are no definable standards which a rabbi can employ to
determine whether one’s conversion is sincere. Basically the rabbi is required to give an honest
presentation of the religion and explain the responsibilities should the prospective candidate
decide to take the plunge (literally). Those rabbis who have taken upon themselves this task must be yirei shamayim, because once a gentile has converted there is no turning back.

Rabbi Boteach quite properly explained that Judaism is not a faith which makes pie in the sky
promises. Many tzaddikim have suffered and many reshaim have prospered in this world. This
does not trouble the true believer who understands that Hashem is the true Judge and
rewards the deserving in Olam Haba.

Rabbi Boteach did not mention baalei teshuvah, but I would like to expand on his words. Many who embrace Torah Judaism are attracted by a seemingly idyllic lifestyle. Those who never experienced a real Shabbos are overwhelmed by Shabbatons and resolve to similarly invite guests to their homes. Baruch Hashem, there is much in the Torah that is appealing, but adopting halachic practices is not a guarantee of fame and fortune. (Rebbetzin Jungreis in her columns regularly fields questions from those troubled by the suffering of the righteous.)

Further ,there are baalei teshuvah and geirim who are turned off by the obsession with
materialism that has corrupted the frum community. Yes, there is room for improvement in the Torah world, but each Jew must recognize that, as we say in the Amidah (‘G-d of Abraham,
G-d of Isaac and G-d of Jacob’ ), He is also our personal G-d and no person, place or thing can affect this relationship.

Rabbi Boteach noted that Dr. Laura no longer felt connected to the mitzvas; they had
become encumbrances which she looked to shed. Sadly, this attitude is becoming commonplace. Preparing for Passover now means purchasing kosher for Pesach sunscreen. And there are more subtle forms of our disinterest in mitzvas. It’s Elul, and I recall as a child going to shul for the first Selichos at 1 a.m. on motzei Shabbos. Now many shuls have changed to the more family-friendly 10 p.m. The argument given is that we’re made of less sterner stuff than previous generations, so allowances have to be made. This leads to a chicken vs. egg question: How much of our religious laxity is attributable to our physical
weakness and how much is due to our obsession with gashmius?

My rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zelig Friedman, shlita, uses the following mashal to combat religious ennui. Imagine you are a White House intern looking to make a name for yourself. You
overhear President Bush speaking of his fondness for strawberries and cream. If strawberries were out of season, you wouldn’t be deterred. No, you would make whatever calls were necessary to curry the boss’s favor. Mitzvas must be viewed not as burdens but as opportunities that the King of the World has given us to draw closer to Him.

Rabbi Boteach noted that many people find davening a bore. How can that be if we consider
that three times a day Hashem, so to speak, puts aside all His affairs to listen His children’s
concerns? It’s a different approach to be sure, but if we keep such thoughts in mind we will be
properly prepared as the yamim noraim approach.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY



What Price ‘Unity’?

Ignoring The Real Problems

Re “Judaism Menu Style” (editorial, August 29):

I commend The Jewish Press for once again standing alone with the courage to challenge Jewish denominationism. Orthodox Jewish organizations such as the Agudah as well as the
“yeshivishe” newspapers maintain their silence in the face of the creeping legitimation of the
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements as alternatives to shmiras Torah
u’mitzvos.

Just let an authentic and respected Torah scholar write an honest book about the human side of revered gedolim, and the Agudah and its house organs go berserk and virtually ban the work on pain of excommunication. But a conference based on the premise that there are
many acceptable paths to Hashem - including those that eschew the idea of mitzvas and even,
incongruously, a Supreme Being - draws not even a yawn or a mention.

Our dor needs help with the real, hard problems we face, not with the manufactured ones.

Reuven Kessler
(Via E-Mail)


Down Side Of ‘Unity’

At long last, the “Unity” mantra has been exposed for what it is. Whoever said that working
for the unity of as many Jews as possible is the Jewish ideal? Is it a positive thing for purportedly Orthodox public figures to paper over their allies’ systematic disavowal of fundamental religious precepts?

Jenna Stein
(Via E-Mail)


No Halachic Authority

After reading your editorial “A Day of Traditional and Untraditional Learning,” I was intrigued enough to go on the Internet to find out more about the subject. I was astonished to learn that there was not a recognized halachic/talmudic scholar or personality in the lot of participants or
presenters. Is this all just a cry for relevance from some wannabe leaders?

Hesh Moskowitz
New York, NY


Spiritual Leaders – Or Social Activists?

It should not come as a surprise that certain rabbis occupying Orthodox pulpits would be part
of a communal “learn-in.” A good percentage of today’s so-called Jewish religious leaders are
really very much like Al Sharpton in that they use ordination as a credential to engage in the social activism that is closest to their heart. They do not see themselves as halachic decisors and resources for spiritual guidance for their flock as much as advocates for social change.

For example, I do not doubt the sincerity of Rabbi Avi Weiss’s activism – although some of
his ramparts-climbing does get to be a bit much sometimes - but I do doubt that he is someone many Jews think of when they need help with understanding an elusive theme in the Talmud or a difficult Rambam.

When a religious leader directs his focus on social change, it is but a short step to making
religious common cause with – and to accord religious legitimacy to - those who share an
interest in such change but who deny the very basis of halacha.

(Rabbi) Pinchas Minzer
Jerusalem

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-29/2003/10/03/

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