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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘TWO’

A Worried Wife And Mother

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I was pleased to see the letter from a reader titled “Not of This Generation” in your July 12 column, as well as your reply to her over the following two weeks.

I’m also one of those people who are “Not of This Generation.” My friends and I thought your response to the letter writer was perfect, so I thought you might just be the one to help my husband and I resolve our conflict.

We have five children who are all married with lovely families of their own. I know that is a great blessing. My friends always tell me how lucky I am, and I thank Hashem every day. But still have problems.

My husband has his own business. He worked very hard on building it and making it what it is today. In our younger years there were days he never came home. He actually slept in the office. Four years ago my husband started to turn over the business to our children. Two of my sons are professionals so they weren’t interested; our three other children – two sons and one son-in-law – became very much involved and are in the business today.

As you might imagine, there has been some sibling rivalry but my husband managed to smooth it all out. I just hope that (after 120, as we say) there won’t be any split in our family. I’m always frightened of that and my husband to some extent shares my sentiment; however, he does not think there is anything to really worry about. I think he is deluding himself because he doesn’t want to face such a possibility.

In one of our family conferences we pointed out to the children that there is room for everyone if they chose to live in peace but if they opt for acrimony and contention, not only will the business collapse but the entire family will be in jeopardy as well. They all nodded their heads and assured us it won’t happen. But I could see from their expressions that our words hadn’t penetrated.

When I mentioned this to my husband, he said I was getting carried away. Rebbetzin, I have seen families where cousins, aunts and uncles are not even invited to one another’s weddings. Several of my friends have this very problem and tell me that jealousy destroyed their families and businesses.

I have another problem. My husband is 69 and thinking of retiring and moving to Florida. I ask him, “What will you do there?” He replies, “I’ll do what other people do. I’ll play some golf. Maybe I’ll take on a hobby. I always wanted to paint but never had time for it. I’ll to the gym. I’ll play cards. I’ll go boating. I just want to relax and live my life without pressure.”

To make me feel better he tells me, “You can have a wonderful relaxing life. You’ll find many friends. You can learn new hobbies. And then there are things we can do together. We can go out to dinner, to lunch – you won’t even have to cook. There are so many great restaurants in Florida. The weather is good. We can join other friends and have a good time.”

It all sounds wonderful and under normal circumstances I’d love to move to Florida. My sister lives in Boca Raton and I could take a place right near her. Additionally, I have many friends in the area and I know I could have a nice social life. But I’m just so concerned about our children. Perhaps “children” is the wrong word because they are adults, but they will always be my children. My husband tells me I’m being ridiculous, that we can’t watch them forever.

We are not all that observant. We are not fully shomer Shabbos but we are traditional, keep a kosher home and go to synagogue. We support Israel. And we are regular readers of The Jewish Press who very much respect your views and opinions.

My husband is convinced you will agree with him. If that’s the case, I’ll accept it. My husband acknowledges that many families have become divided because of money but he assures me this won’t happen with our children. They come from a good home. Their parents and grandparents (maternal and paternal) imbued them with love and family responsibility.

The children are encouraging my husband to retire. “Dad, Mom,” they say, “just go; we’ll be okay. We won’t do anything radical without discussing it with you. And we’ll come down to Florida a few times a year and you’ll come visit us here.” And then they turn to me. “It’s not like you’re moving to a different country Mom. It’s no big deal. It’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight.”

And yet I’m still very nervous, Rebbetzin. I do hope you can address my problem and that you’ll do so sooner rather than later because my husband is ready to go ahead with his plans.

I wish you a happy and a healthy new year. Your column and books have been blessings in my life.

New Republic Article on Feminism from Zion Is All About the Stakes

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The new issue of The New Republic cover story (The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism) is about us. It is about Haredim, modern Orthodox, and women. These are things we discuss regularly online and at our Shabbos tables, and in our coffee rooms. The story is remarkably accurate and balanced, displaying a very deep understanding of the issues in Israel today. I recommend reading the article immediately.

Imagine a spectrum of religious fundamentalism in the orthodox Jewish community. On one end you have extreme Haredi sects and on the other end you have completely secular Israelis. On most things and for most of time the people in the middle, let’s call them modern orthodox, skewed their allegiences toward the Haredi side. Orthodoxy is the great uniter. The assumption is that any two orthodox people will have more common interests than an orthodox and a secular Jew. This is how things were.

In essence, the article argues that while naturally aligned with their fellow orthodox Jews, women from the modern orthodox community in Israel are finding themselves aligned with secular feminist Jews in Israel. The collective pain that is felt due to the oppressiveness toward women in the extreme and not so extreme Haredi world is taking a toll. Women have been attacked physically, verbally, and psychologically for a long time and it is starting to create a negative reaction.

Several times the article mentions signs that tell women how to dress. We have become accustomed to these signs. But the women in the article argue that the signs give license to thugs who want to make a statement to women. To them, the signs mean much more than “Please be sensitive to our religious beliefs.” Part of that is because these standards are entering the public sphere and are no longer just limited to the private insular neighborhoods. But the other part of it is that the signs are somehow justifying the negativity and violence toward women.

What has happened is that women who feel hurt and abused are turning to secular and Reform Jews for salvation. Feminism is a dirty word in many orthodox communities, even in some places within the modern orthodox community. But it’s becoming a necessary evil for modern orthodox women who are not feminists at all to ask for help from feminists. It’s odd when orthodox people are funding they have more in common with secular and very liberal Jews than fellow orthodox Jews. But that is what is happening.

The article also talks about modern orthodox women who sympathize with the Women of the Wall. I wish they would be more vocal but i was heartened to hear it.

Last week I wrote about finding common ground and room for dialogue between modern orthodox and yeshivish Jews in America. (See:
Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution) I think what we are seeing in the article in TNR is what will happen if we can’t work together. If the people in the middle start to feel like the liberal and secular Jews are more sympathetic to their way of life, the great split that has been predicted for years, will finally happen. Modern orthodox Judaism will become an independent group.

Some might say, what’s so bad about that? Well there are plenty negative consequences to mention. But I will mention the two biggest issues. First, the Haredi institutions will fall without modern orthodox support. Some might say that’s not so bad either. I disagree. Their services are necessary, as is their trap door into engagement with society. On the other side, without a connection the Haredi community, the modern orthodox community will be hard pressed to support its own institutions for lack of qualified teachers and rabbis.

It’s not in our best interests to see a formal split. It might happen in Israel and it might happen in America. I think we should do everything we can to prevent it. The first thing we need to do, is get together and talk.

Visit Fink or Swim.

The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

Chief Rabbis & Politics

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I have never been a fan of chief rabbis. Anyone appointed by committees, politicians, or bureaucrats is suspect in my eyes. Perhaps my antipathy is rooted in the days when both Napoleon and the czar appointed state chief rabbis whom they approved of because they were likely to support their agendas. I can say with confidence that, in general, the greatest rabbis, whether intellectually or spiritually, have never been interested in public appointments.

I don’t mean to say that all chief rabbis have been duds. Israel’s Chief Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook, Isaac Herzog, and Uziel were great men by any criteria. Chief Rabbi Goren was a dynamic overachiever and a fearless innovator. Some, like Ovadiah Yosef, have been great scholars but poor spokesmen. But there have been too many others who were undiplomatic, corrupt, or ineffective. The reason can simply be put down to politics. When appointments are made by groups of political appointees (or self-appointed grandees) they invariably make the wrong decisions. Neither is public acclaim a reliable test of the best person for the job. Those who seek or need public recognition are rarely willing or able to take the tough and controversial stands that are the mark of genuine leadership.

Israel recently appointed two chief rabbis, both the sons of previous chief rabbis. I do not know either of them. But remarks I have seen attributed to them leave me deeply depressed that they will reflect a xenophobic, narrow perspective and shrink from trying to humanize the rabbinate. The political maneuvering, the arm twisting, the deals behind closed doors all point to a corrupt system. And once gain the innovative, the exciting have lost out. If a good man ever emerges it is despite the system not because of it. Nepotism is a poor way of producing great leaders. Yet throughout Jewish religious institutions nepotism is the norm rather than the exception. Yeshivot nowadays are often big family businesses (as indeed are most Chasidic dynasties).

Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi. This in itself is evidence of how flawed the system is, that in a small religion such as ours religious leadership cannot work together. In addition, in Israel, there is a huge disconnect between the religious leadership and the common person, between the state rabbinate and the Charedi world, which has its own authorities. Indeed the Charedi world always rubbished and abused the state rabbinate until, in the desperate search for jobs for the boys and power, it began to infiltrate and then take much of it over. Once again it has ensured that its candidates have got the jobs.

One of the first words in Ivrit I learnt was “protektsia” (yes, I know it comes from Russian). “Vitamin P” meant you could not get anywhere in Israeli life, from top to bottom, religious or secular, without knowing someone or having someone pull strings in your behalf. So it was and so it largely remains. When this disease infects religion, it loses its moral authority.

But surely, you will say, Judaism requires one to respect one’s religious leaders. In theory this is so. The Torah commands respect for princes and scholars. Our liturgy is full of references to their importance. But there are two very distinct types of leadership in our tradition. The prophet and the judge emerged through merit. That’s probably why there were women judges and prophets. Rabbis as a rule were the result of meritocracy (the rabbinic dynasties that began with Hillel wanted to have their cake and eat it). On the other hand, the priesthood and the monarchy were both hereditary, and both failed. Most of the Jewish kings were idolatrous, evil men, and most priests showed more interest in money and power than Divine service.

Moshe typified the meritocracy. This was why he always defended himself by referring to his spotless record. It is true we say that in each generation we must accept the leader, Jephtah in his generation as the equivalent of Samuel in his. But I believe that has another meaning, of the need to accept the best we can get.

“Pray for the welfare of the ruling powers because otherwise humans would swallow each other up,” says the Mishna. That very Hobbesian idea underpins our modern secular states. But as Locke argued, if the king failed to do his job, you could and should get rid of him. This is why we pray for the State wherever we live, even as we may try our best to vote out whoever the current prime minister is. We in the West have recently experienced the irrational hysteria over a royal baby. I have no interest in ordinary people being elevated to positions of power or even symbolic authority simply on the basis of birth. There are enough inequalities in life of rank and wealth. I like the fact that we can vote people out of office as much as in. If I choose to respect someone, it is on the basis of the respect he or she earns, not the position they have been given. The diploma should be greater than the diaper.

I look forward to Elijah’s arrival. I hope he will not try to reinstate the monarchy. But I am pretty sure he will not insist on two kings, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi.

One of the reasons for so much disillusion with religion is precisely this disconnect between how its leaders too often behave and speak and their own purported religious values. The more we see how susceptible religious leadership is to money, power, and fame, the less good the religion they represent looks. I don’t care too much what politicians like Spitzer or Weiner get up to, and if people want to vote for them that’s their problem. But when religious leadership behaves like political leadership, something is very wrong.

Two Arabs Caught Vandalizing Tomb of the Patriarchs

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Two Palestinians were arrested last night after being caught red handed in the commission of an act of vandalism in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The two were recorded on security cameras as they were ripping a Mezuzah off the wall in the hall of Ya’acov and Leah.

Superintendent Barak Arusi, commander of the police unit guarding the site, stated that the two, aged 20, were charged with attempted theft and with an attempt to offend religious sentiments. During their questioning one of the detainees denied his involvement, but the confessed to the charges and implicated his accomplice as well. They are both held in custody.

This is the fourth reported act of desecration by Muslims against Jewish religious symbols over the month of Ramadan. Tazpit News Agency reported yesterday that Mezuzahs were desecrated for a third time by Muslims frequenting the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Following the incident Sunday, Muslims age 18 – 35 were barred temporarily from entering the Tomb of the patriarchs, but Major General Nitzan Alon, chief of the IDF Central Command, rescinded the directive. A short while later, the two vandals were caught in the act.


Nothing ‘Reasonable’ about Mideast Divide

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to swallow a painful and embarrassing concession to please the Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry had his moment of triumph.

In announcing the start of a new round of Middle East peace talks, Kerry has seemingly justified the way he has concentrated his efforts on an issue that was not in crisis mode and with little chance of resolution while treating other more urgent problems such as Egypt, Syria, and the Iranian nuclear threat as lower priorities.

But now that he has had his victory, the focus turns to the talks where few, if any, observers think there is a ghost of a chance of that the negotiations can succeed despite Kerry’s call for “reasonable compromises.”

The reason for that is that despite the traditional American belief that the two sides can split the difference on their disagreements, as Kerry seems to want, the problem is much deeper than drawing a new line on a map.

Ironically, proof of this comes from a new poll that some are touting as evidence that both Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution. The poll was a joint project of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. It shows, among other often-contradictory results, that a majority of Israelis (62 percent) supports a two-state solution while 33 percent oppose it. Among Palestinians, 53 percent support and 46 percent oppose the two-state solution.

But the question to ask about this poll and the conflict is what the two sides mean by a two-state solution. The answer comes in a subsequent query:

We asked Israelis and Palestinians about their readiness for a mutual recognition as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established. Our current poll shows that 57% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition and 37% opposes it. Among Palestinians, 42% support and 56% oppose this step.

In other words, Israelis see a two-state solution as a way to permanently end the conflict and achieve peace. But since a majority of Palestinians cannot envision mutual recognition even after all issues are resolved and they get a state, they obviously see it as merely a pause before the conflict would begin anew on terms decidedly less advantageous to Israel.

There are many reasons why the peace negotiations are likely to fail. The Palestinians are deeply split, with Gaza being ruled by the Islamists of Hamas who still won’t even contemplate talks with Israel, let alone peace. Kerry has praised Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, but he is weak and hasn’t the ability to make a peace deal stick even in the unlikely event he signs one.

Though Netanyahu went out on a political limb to enable the talks to begin by releasing scores of Palestinian terrorists, Abbas has shown in the past that he will say no, even when offered virtually everything he has asked for. Netanyahu will rightly drive a harder bargain and refuse to contemplate a deal that involves a complete retreat to the 1967 lines or a Palestinian state that isn’t demilitarized. But it’s hard to imagine Abbas ever recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

The real problem, however, isn’t about where negotiators would draw those lines. As the poll indicates, even after Israel withdraws from almost all of the West Bank (reports indicate Netanyahu is ready to give up 86 percent of it), a substantial majority of Palestinians still can’t fathom the possibility of mutual recognition and normal relations.

How can that be?

The reason is very simple and is not something Kerry or his lead negotiator Martin Indyk (a veteran of numerous diplomatic failures who hasn’t seemed to learn a thing from any of them) can fix. Palestinian nationalism was born in the 20th century as a reaction to Zionism, not by focusing on fostering a separate identity and culture from that of other Arab populations. That doesn’t mean Palestinians aren’t now a separate people with their own identity, but it does explain why they see that identity as indistinguishable from the effort to make Israel disappear.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 10/31/08

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The Sun Has Come Out For ‘Esther’
(See Chronicles 5-16, 5-23, 5-30, 8-1, 8-8)

Readers will surely recall the heart-tugging letters from “Esther” who was ridden by guilt for having rejected a fine young man based solely on their differing cultures and background. When the rebuffed suitor had taken ill and passed away shortly after Esther married another, our young lady was inconsolable. To augment her heartbreak, she found herself in an abusive marital relationship. And while she was mourning a tragedy that she was certain she had caused, her husband absconded with their two little sons.

For some 20-odd years, Esther has berated herself for her foolishness and callousness with which she had spurned “Aaron” and was convinced that losing her children was G-d’s way of punishing her for her sin.

In the column that featured Esther’s last letter (Chronicles 8-8), she was advised to put the past behind her. To quote from our reply, “Though we are taught to do teshuvah every day of our life here on earth, we are also admonished to serve Hashem with happiness and to believe that He is a merciful Father eager to forgive our wrongdoings. Having suffered so unbearably for so long, you must surely believe that G-d has forgiven you for the foolishness of your youth and that your ocean of tears has by now more than wiped your slate clean.”

Esther was further encouraged never to give up on her children whom she would be likely to meet up with one day. ” Now that you have finally allowed your oppressive pain to seep out, your story is being read by countless people globally. Anyone recalling an incident similar to the one you have described will alert “a someone else” and so on.

“It is well documented that adopted children generally grow up with an innate curiosity about their roots. That craving is even more prevalent among our people and many have left no stone unturned in trying to unearth details of their birth mother. G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent – a kesher not easily broken.”

Just before Rosh Hashanah, this column heard from “Esther” again. With the advent of Mar Cheshvan, a month designated as mar (bitter) because it is devoid of holy days, I delight in bringing some sweet joy to you, our dear reader, who will certainly feel along with Esther once again.

Dear Rachel,

I wanted to update you on a number of recent occurrences in my life. I leave out much because it will take too long. However, I will continue to update you after the Holidays, bli neder, if you wish.

Rachel, it seems that the letters made huge waves everywhere.

I got a phone call one late night, shaking me out of another restless sleep. A gentle, male voice asked if I am so and so. I reacted with suspicion and demanded to know who was calling. The phone number had about 15 numerals, so obviously the caller was out of the U.S.

He managed to calm me down some and asked me to sit down, and then he said that he read the letters in The Jewish Press and became convinced that the writer must be me, “his mother,” and that he is my younger son (he gave me his TWO names).

I didn’t allow myself to be swayed and threatened to have the police trace the call. He reacted by telling me exactly where he was calling from. I then asked him to describe a distinctive physical mark of his, and he DID!

I screamed, stuttered, yelled and ran around the room like a devil possessed. I cried hysterically and he shushed me again and again. To make a long story short, he was now married and living in another country. He promised to come visit. I couldn’t sleep for the next two weeks!

He was coming to visit for five days so I took a week’s vacation. Two weeks later I waited for him at the airport, pacing nervously back and forth through the terminal. (I think I wore a hole in my shoes.) When they announced the arrival, I thought I swallowed my heart!

Rachel, he is tall, slim, dark, and was wearing a suit, looking typically Yeshivish. I recognized him immediately. I must have fainted because I suddenly felt someone washing my face and opened my eyes to see HIM bending over me and holding my head.

After the commotion and getting to my apartment, we talked and talked and talked. We tried to bridge the gap of so many years. Again and again I hugged and kissed him and he did the same with me. We’d go on talking till we were exhausted. We talked about everything under the sun. And then he had to fly back.

For two days after he left, I cried like a baby.

Rachel, I am suddenly ALIVE!

My boss graciously told me to take off the entire Yomim-Tovim season to go spend with my son. Next Thursday I will be flying to him and staying with his family (he has a little daughter) until after Simchas Torah.

Thank you, Rachel! You saved my life and brought me back not only a son but a full- fledged family!

I am suddenly very aware that there is happiness and joy in the world and the tears of both keep mingling. I’m sure (I hope?) that Aaron is happy for me and I will pray on Yom Kippur for his neshamah to find peace and tranquility.

Have a Ketivah V’Chatimah Tovah, a year of blessings. You have no idea how you are helping people by printing their story and by giving them your heartfelt advice and sympathy. You save many more lives than you can ever imagine.

You sure saved mine!

Readers, stay tuned

The Brat With No Hat (With apologies to Dr. Seuss, wherever he may be)

Saturday, January 10th, 2004

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So they sat in Geneva
With murderers all day.

And then
We connected the dots!
How those dots made us plotz!

We looked!
Could not believe the nerve of the brat!
We looked!
And we saw it!
The Brat with no Hat!
And he said to us,
“We’re gonna make peace just like that.”

I know it is dumb
And this brat is not funny.
When he mails us this treason, using lots of bad money!

“I know some appeasements we can play,”
Said the brat.
“I know some new tricks,”
Said the Brat with no Hat.
“Capitulations to terrorists true,
Your mother
Will be blown to bits when we do.”

Then you and I
Did not know what to word.
We were tongue-tied and forlorn when we read the ‘accord.’
But our lemmings said, “No! No!
We can make the war go away!
Just tell all them settlers that they just cannot stay

“They should not be there.
They should not be about.
They should not be around
When the bombers come out!”

“Now! Now! Have no fear.
Have no fear!” said the brat.
“My accords are not bad,”
Said the Brat with no Hat.

“Why, we can have
Lots of fun, yes we shall,
With a game that I call
Send the Guns to the Pals!”

“Stop the deaths!” said the Jews.
“Stop, we see red!
Reverse course!” said the Jews,
“Before we’re all dead!”

“Have no fear!” said the brat.
“When have I been wrong?
Their right of return should be implemented ?fore long,
With a pen in my hand!
And sly tricks up my sleeve!
That is not ALL I have done!”
(Just ask Steve.)

“Look at me!
Look at me now!” said the brat.
“With a terrorist deal
I’ve pulled out of my hat!

“I can set up TWO states!
One for them and one more!
Two states for two peoples!
And thereafter war!

“And look!
I can hop up and down on the law!
But that is not all!
Oh, no.
That is not all…

“Look at me!
“Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to surrender
But you have to know how.

“And look! With my arm
I can hold a red flag!
To promote my agenda
With no Aloni hag!
But that is not all.
Oh, no.
That is not all.”

That is what the brat said…
Kassem rockets dead ahead!
And you and I,
We saw ALL the bombs fall!

“Now look what you did!”
Said the Jews to the brat.
“You gave them a state!
How could you do that?

“You sank our own state,
Sank it deep in the mud.
You set them up armed
And sank us in blood.

“You SHOULD NOT be here,
When common sense is not.
You get out of this house!”
Said the Jews to the sot.

“But I like to be here.
Oh, I like it a lot!”
Said the Brat with no Hat
To the Jews on the spot.

“I will NOT go away.
I do NOT wish to go!
And so,” said the Brat with no Hat,
“SoSosSo…
I will show you
Another good game that I know!”

And then he ran out.
And fast as a fox,
He flew to Geneva and
came back with a box.

A treasonous box.
To be sold hook or crook.
“Now look at this deal,”
Said the Brat.
“Take a look!”

“I will impose my will.
On the Jews, otherwise
I will force upon them to submit, to demise.”

The Jews and I
did not know what to do.
So we had to shake hands
with Thing One and Thing Two.

We shook Yasir’s paws.
While our minds said, “No! No!
Those Things should not be,
In this land! Make them go!

“They should not be here,
When they shoot at us guns!
Put them out! Put them out!”
Said the Jews of the bums.

“Have no fear, little Jews,”
said the Brat with no Hat.
“These Things are good Things.”
And he gave them a pat.

“They are tame. Oh, so tame!
They have come here to play.
They will give you some peace
On this bright Oslo day.”

Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book ‘The Scout’ is available at
Amazon.com. He can be reached at steven_plaut@yahoo.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-brat-with-no-hat-with-apologies-to-dr-seuss-wherever-he-may-be/2004/01/10/

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