Where’s The Outrage?
Kudos to Rabbi Yehuda Levin for his on-target op-ed article regarding the silence of Orthodox organizations as the homosexuals prepare to take over Jerusalem for ten days (“Defiling the Courtyard of the King,” Nov. 21).
At what point will the Agudah, the OU and Young Israel at least issue a statement of protest? Are they condoning the deviant behavior of tens of thousands in the backyard of the Holy
Temple? What do they think of the smut film festival to be celebrated in Jerusalem, right next door to the yeshivas and seminaries their children attend?
I have seen the agenda of the forthcoming Agudah Convention, and there is a huge gap. My question is: What does it take to outrage the Torah and lay leaders of Orthodox Jewry? This is obviously a direct attack at our jugular, and we should be able to feel confident that Orthodox organizations will protect us from this defilement.
There should be an immediate and urgent response from all Orthodox organizations around the world. This open and brazen threat should send the Agudah, the OU and Young Israel into
a frenzy of activity and protest. I have yet to see or hear a cry of anguish, a call to prayer, a directive of action, or even a whispered sigh.
This resounding silence is not only offensive and cowardly, it is downright scary.
Rabbi Dr. Reuven Poupko
Speak, Mr. Mayor
As a proud congregant of Kehilas Mevakshei Hashem, I wish to express my gratitude to The Jewish Press for providing Rabbi Levin a prominent forum to enlighten your readership as to the insidious and unrelenting assault on society’s moral standards by militant gay groups. Just ten years ago the very idea of ‘gay marriage’ would have been considered preposterous.
It is my sincere hope that the haredi mayor of Jerusalem will publicly condemn, from the pulpit of the Agudah convention, the international gay conference planned for Jerusalem and will use
all his resources to try to cancel it.
Please allow me to express my support for Rabbi Rafael Grossman’s criticism of Thomas Friedman of The New York Times (“Thinking Aloud,” Jewish Press, Nov. 21).
Even though Mr. Friedman and The New York Times continue to discredit themselves with what Rabbi Grossman accurately describes as dangerous foolishness, they continue to enjoy
widespread circulation and to affect public opinion – and that is what makes them dangerous. As long as they continue, someone must stand up to oppose them and expose them. I salute
Rabbi Grossman for taking the time and showing the courage to publicly refute these charlatans.
I must, however, respectfully differ with Rabbi Grossman’s opinion that Mr. Friedman is sometimes brilliant and incisive. It could be that Mr. Friedman displays certain academic skills
that allow him to write with a surface impressiveness, but his mistaken, warped and dangerous ideas cancel any benefit from those skills and reveals the fool lurking behind them.
We should all be appreciative that The Jewish Press offers a credible and formidable forum to deliver the antidote for their poison. Thanks also to The Jewish Press for publishing my letter
(July 11) in which I categorically renounced and rejected Mr. Friedman and The New York Times for the same reason Rabbi Grossman did last week.
Appreciates Truth About Kennedy
As always, I immensely enjoyed Jason Maoz’s Media Monitor column last week. It was a bracing tonic to the Kennedy worship one was confronted with all over the media for at least five days running.
There were some exceptions to the near-total whitewashing of John F. Kennedy’s real record – some documentaries on the History Channel, for example – but by and large the media once
again acted as a public relations machine for the House of Kennedy.
Any assassination of an American president is a tragic event (the way the media focus on JFK every Nov. 22, it’s easy to forget that there have been other presidents murdered while in office, about whom we almost never hear), but it really is time for supposedly hard-boiled journalists to grow up and stop giving us a John Kennedy fit for a children’s storybook instead of the deeply flawed man he was.
Not Out To ‘Get’ Seidler-Feller
I am surprised at David Eisner’s lack of knowledge of the sad events that took place at UCLA after Alan Dershowitz’s speech (“Is The Jewish Press Proud of Naomi Ragen?” Letters, Nov. 21).
What occurred had nothing to do with politics or one’s views on Israel. What took place was an assault by one of the Los Angeles community’s most visible rabbis. It is shocking, unforgivable, and in my view an act that merits his resignation or dismissal.
Just to set the record straight, let me give you a short biography of Rachel Neuwirth, the woman attacked by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller. Among other things, she was a commander
in the Israeli Air Force, a member of the Israeli national women’s basketball team, an El Al flight attendant, a guide for the Jewish Agency in Israel (which means she passed a test on
Israel’s history and biblical heritage), and an actress in Israel.
Today she is a respected member of the community who is a strong advocate for Israel and the quest for true peace.
There is no campaign to “get” Rabbi Seidler-Feller for his political views, but rather an effort to see him removed from his post for a long series of verbal abuses against his ideological
opponents, and now this physical violence directed against a woman.
Santa Monica, CA
‘Angry And Threatening’
Re David Eisner’s remarks in defense of Rabbi Seidler-Feller:
I was there. Although I was nowhere near the altercation, Rabbi Seidler-Feller came toward me in a rage after he was restrained following his kicking of Rachel Neuwirth. As he approached me, his bearing was angry and threatening, and students had to hold him back. He was ranting, blaming me for Rachel’s coming to the Dershowitz event because he had seen me
sitting next to her during the lecture.
Rabbi Seidler-Feller is aware that I have chosen at this time not to file charges of assault pending the outcome of the Neuwirth case.
The fact remains that Rabbi Seidler-Feller was completely out of line in his attack against a woman. This is not an incident of left versus right, but one of right versus wrong.
Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen, CA
Unjust Criticism Of Joel
I do not know Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Rachel Neuwirth or Naomi Ragen. Neither do I know what happened between Neuwirth and Seidler-Feller at UCLA. If, however, Seidler-Feller did what was reported in the UCLA Bruin as Ragen wrote, he should be severely disciplined, if not fired.
I suspect that if he were still president of Hillel and the facts turned out as alleged, Richard Joel would indeed discipline Seidler-Feller if not terminate him.
But Richard Joel is no longer associated with Hillel. And what he said about Seidler-Feller last year while president of Hillel, even if true, certainly did not warrant the attention-grabbing
title on Ms. Ragen’s opinion piece, or warrant the slap she took at Yeshiva University for hiring Joel as its president.
I do know Richard Joel – first as a student-adviser many years ago working under Joel when he headed YU’s kiruv program for high school students (known as “Seminar”), and more recently as a friend and neighbor and in his capacity as a local Jewish community leader.
I have not necessarily agreed with everything Joel may have said or done in the past, and I personally am at odds with Hillel in terms of halacha and hashkafa. And I may not agree with Joel in the future as to every policy he may wish to implement at YU. But knowing Joel, I am confident that he was hired by the trustees of YU not solely for his fund-raising prowess, as Ragen writes, but also for his integrity, his overall leadership qualities and his unique ability to motivate and inspire others, especially young people.
As Ragen herself acknowledged, Joel is a “great guy” who, I would add, has the potential and ability to help YU accomplish great things in both Torah and secular matters.
Certainly if Ragen wishes to legitimately – yet respectfully – criticize Joel for substantive things he does or says as president of YU, that is one thing. But it is beyond the pale for Ragen to gratuitously link Joel and YU to a person and an incident at UCLA over which Joel no longer has authority or control.
Silver Spring, MD
Israel … Or Iraq?
I read with sadness the Nov. 21 Jewish Press article by Ruth Matar, of the Women in Green, on the abuses by the Shin Bet.
How can my people behave and act in such a manner toward their brethren who only seek peace and the perpetuation of the State of Israel?
To mistreat Jews like this is a disgrace and a chillul Hashem as well as a violation of halacha.
To incarcerate Jews without bringing charges or even informing them of their alleged crimes does not befit a country that calls itself a democracy.
How can we be a ‘light unto the nations’ if we behave no better than Iraq and other totalitarian countries?
New York, NY
Religious Politicians In The Public Square: The Lieberman Dilemma
Public, Private Personas
I come to praise William Brenner and to bury him (figuratively, of course). In a beautifully
crafted letter (Jewish Press, Nov. 21), Mr. Brenner takes “Brooklyn Joe” Lieberman to task for criticizing Senator Joseph Lieberman’s alleged failure to advance the moral agenda. He argues that the senator’s public and private personas are distinct, and should be allowed to remain so. With all due respect, I do not concur.
Several weeks ago, Dennis Prager graced the front and back pages of The Jewish Press with a brilliant piece making the case that America is now engaged in its second civil war, a bloodless skirmish between conservative and liberal ideologies. While this may be an overstatement, clearly the demarcation lines have been drawn.
The Republicans, once viewed as the party of “Big Business,” are now considered the protectors of family values, while the Democrats, long regarded as the “Party of the People,” seem to champion every cause that runs counter to this country’s Judeo-Christian foundation.
We are not living in a vacuum. Look at the Supreme Court. Surely our finest jurists must
place fealty to the Constitution above all else, but in reality those judges with a liberal bent
consistently rule according to their political ideology – as, in all fairness, do the conservative
arbiters. Similarly, many single-issue politicians in both camps are embraced by their constituencies for advancing their particular concerns. Simply put, despite the real and imagined pressures (and let’s be careful about speaking against the man), there is no reason for Senator Lieberman, who has earned and established his reputation as a man of principle and is known as an observant Jew, to make any concessions in his faith.
Sadly, Mr. Brenner seems to believe that Judaism should only be practiced at home or in the
synagogue. But it was King David who wrote, “Shevisi Hashem kinegdi tomid” – I set G-d before me at all times.
Baruch Hashem, the United States has provided a wonderful haven for the Jewish people.
We’ve been afforded the opportunity to grow, both spiritually and materially. A midrash tells us that before Hashem brought the Great Flood, He allowed for a period of “Heaven on Earth.” We must not delude ourselves that our present good fortune will continue if we continue provoking the Creator.
It is our obligation, as we view the moral decay around us, to speak out – both for our own
and for our country’s sake. If doing so for Senator Lieberman means committing political suicide, remember that Jews throughout the millennia have made far greater sacrifices to demonstrate their allegiance to the G-d of Israel.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
Man-Made Morality Or Torah Law?
While visiting American servicemen, President George W. Bush noticed a sign that Jewish troops had prepared in his honor which stated, “For our Country, for our G-d”. The born-again Christian and leader of the free world remarked to the young men that the sign should
have G-d?s name before the name of our great republic.
To me, that little anecdote is but a small yet poignant illustration of the relationship we Jews
have, on a very large scale, with our Christian countrymen in this great democracy. Increasingly, the people who are promulgating immorality and paganism in the U.S. are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while those who are reprimanding them lovingly, both privately and publicly, in many instances are not.
Man-made morality that is not rooted in the holy Torah or tied to the Seven Noahide Laws can lead to many evil outcomes. Nazi Germany is a perfect example of how the will of the masses, when allowed to supersede the validity of a moral and just constitution rooted in Judeo-Christian ethics, can bring about horrors the likes of which the world had never seen.
We Americans have been blessed that the founding fathers, inspired by our Founding Father,
wrote just such a contract – a contract that includes G-d. Our Declaration of Independence, the opening statement to the world and to the ages, clearly identifies us as a people who believe in a Creator who has guaranteed our freedoms, not an intrusive government.
Chanukah, my favorite holiday, is fast approaching, and I would like to remind my fellow
Jewish Press readers that the central victory of that ancient war was not a physical or military
conquest. Rather it was – and is – the celebration of light overpowering darkness.
Homosexuality and abortion certainly are the epitome of darkness. It is not the goal of citizens
like myself to outlaw either one. Only our Redeemer can accomplish that. However, for the
Jewish senator from Connecticut to have advocated that my hard-earned tax dollars be used to legitimize acts labeled an ‘abomination’ by our Torah – Lieberman has stated publicly that if he’s elected president he will sign legislation allowing federal employees’ benefits to cover their gay ‘spouses’ – is tantamount to heresy.
Today it is abortion, and tomorrow the courts may find that the “quality” of life – as defined by
fallible human beings in black robes – should be the deciding factor when a family considers pulling the plug on an ailing loved one.
Morality and values are not relative. They are directly tied to our holy and eternal Torah. The
Christians, Jews and Muslims of this country who have faith in the One Creator will continue to fight for what they not only believe, but also for what they know to be the truth set forth by G-d through his servant Moses.
Shorefront JCC Needs To Help Us, Too
The Shorefront Jewish Community Council is indeed doing a commendable job regarding the
neighborhood’s indigents (“Hungry Receive Food from Shorefront JCC and Councilman Recchia,” Jewish Press, Nov. 14).
It is very important to see to it that the truly needy receive their entitlements. In fact, according
to a speaker at the last council meeting, other neighborhoods are sending people to the Shorefront Jewish Community Council to receive help in obtaining their entitlements.
That is all nice and good, but I have a question. What is the Shorefront Jewish Community Council doing for the Jews of the community? Many of our synagogues are on the verge of closing, if they have not already done so. Our mikvah is in financial hot water. At one time
there were 29 shomer Shabbos stores on Brighton Beach Avenue. Now there is one.
You want to buy chalav Yisrael milk? You have to go to a Palestinian grocery. You want
certified kosher ready-made salads? You have to go to the same Palestinian. Rubashkin chicken? Again, you have to patronize the Palestinian.
What is the Shorefront Jewish Community Council doing about getting affordable housing for
the Jews of the community? Or about getting young, Orthodox people into the neighborhood?
(The few remaining young people in our synagogues will have to leave the neighborhood
when they get married if nothing is done about the housing crisis now.)
First our community leadership thought that senior housing was the answer to the neighborhood’s problems. When that proved wrong, the next song was that “the Russians are coming to save the neighborhood.” Well, I?m sorry to say this, but a once-vibrant Jewish community is no more.
Our synagogue is, baruch Hashem, holding its own. We struggle with a daily shachris minyan but have had to discontinue the daily Mincha-Maariv minyan for the winter. Our Shabbos minyan is thriving, but we know we will not be successful in keeping our doors open unless we have young, Orthodox families moving into the neighborhood.
Perhaps it is time to ask the “haves” of the Russian community to take a more active part in
assisting the “have-nots” of their community. (Don’t we in the Orthodox community do the same thing? It’s called tzedakah. We donate money to organizations that in turn distribute food, clothing, and money to those in need.) Then the Shorefront Jewish Community Council will be able to direct its limited assets toward solving the problems of the entire Jewish community.
The Shorefront Jewish Community Council must bring the neighborhood?s landlords into the
picture so that together we can try to overcome our housing crisis. We need affordable homes, not the deluxe co-ops that are going up in the neighborhood and which only the affluent can afford.
The Shorefront Jewish Community Council must take the reins in uniting all our neighborhood
Jewish organizations for the purpose of discussing and solving our problems.
It is time for the Shorefront Jewish Community Council to take an active and leading role in helping to solve the problems of the Shorefront Orthodox Jewish community.
Young Israel of Brighton Beach
Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Seidler Feller’
Where’s The Outrage?
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