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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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A Parent’s Anguish

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

This is the most painful letter I’ve ever written. I’ve been through many horrific experiences. My parents were survivors of the Holocaust; they were shattered people. I know you will understand this since you too are a Holocaust survivor.

The scars of that period never heal in those who went through it. As much as my parents celebrated, as much as they laughed and rejoiced, the nightmare was forever with them. My parents raised us with much love. They literally lived for us. They saw their entire families wiped out and now their children represented all that was lost. They never felt a need take a vacation alone – when they did go away it was always with us, their children.

This was the nurturing I was exposed to, and I brought up my own children the same way. They were always my first priority. I was always home for them. I was always there for them. This was equally true of my husband.

As we know, at the bris of every baby boy we say a berachah that the child may merit to enter the covenant of Torah, chuppah and ma’asim tovim. Yes, the dream of Torah-committed parents is different from that of secular parents, whose hope is that the child will grow up to be successful, which in our society means to make loads of money.

Every Friday evening when I lit Shabbos candles I took an extra few moments to pour out my heart and beseech Hashem to grant my husband and me the privilege of seeing our children under the chuppah embracing a genuine Torah life.

Hashem blessed us with eight children – six boys and two girls. Baruch Hashem, all our children found good shiduchim and we saw them all under the chuppah. But very soon everything fell apart with one of them.

I once met a woman from Jerusalem who had five children, one of whom was killed while serving in the army. An insensitive person visiting her during the days of shiva foolishly said, “Thank G-d you still have four children.” She told me that remark was like a knife in her heart. If somebody has five fingers and one is amputated, would you say to that person, “Your hand is fine – after all, it’s just one finger that’s been severed”? If you lose a finger your entire hand is damaged and can no longer do that which seemed so simple only yesterday.

I often think about that woman’s story. In a way I too have lost a finger have been offered foolish consolation. “Don’t get upset, you still have seven children from whom you have nachas.” They can’t comprehend that I go to sleep and wake up with just one thought: “My child, my child, my child is missing.”

My other children are exemplary in their commitment to Torah, their devotion to mitzvos and the respect and love they show us, but this one son and his wife have caused us terrible anguish. And that anguish has taken over our lives and gives us no peace.

This one son married a girl who has agendas. I do not pretend to be a psychologist so I will not even attempt to analyze the situation. But this little wife has made a great breach in our family and destroyed our harmony, our unity. She does not talk to or recognize any of my other children, her husband’s siblings. She does not visit them and does not communicate with them. She will not allow my son to see his siblings or to visit and talk to them.

My son gives the impression that he is in accord with this. The cousins do not know each other. They are not permitted to spend time together.

Why does my son allow this? I don’t know. We all live in the same community and our family tragedy has become public knowledge. Our entire family has suffered. A hundred and one times I have tried to reach my son and daughter-in-law but it has been to no avail. The same holds true for the attempts made by my other children.

My husband and I begged, cajoled, and compromised our dignity – and our children did the same – but our son and daughter-in-law snubbed all our efforts. They locked their doors and their hearts.

Rethinking My Social Connections

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Internet usage is something many of us have been thinking about in this post-Asifa world. I am not writing this to debate the effectiveness of Asifa-type events but only to suggest that since the Citi Field Asifa people aren’t as reluctant to talk about the Internet as they use to be. We are discussing, in a positive manner, Internet safety while projects such as the Internet Shiur series created by Rabbi Gil Student and Dovid Teitelbaum are educating and informing people about Internet use.

While I am not as active as some people, I do spend time online. I am told I have a “web presence” and my digital footprint does include blogs, Facebook, and a little Twitter. I have decided, however, that I need to become less socially connected.

Over the past number of weeks I have heard and read several ideas I believe are worth sharing.

Rav Moshe Weinberger (Congregation Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, New York) has mentioned in several of his shiurim over the years that one of the greatest problems facing us today is the effect of shallowness and depression. He says, quoting the author of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, that atzilus (depression or sadness) is really the feeling of not being connected to the Makor Chaim, the true source of life.

When Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein (founder and director of Ohr Naava) spoke at the Asifa for the Five Towns, he described the Internet as being an artificial world that becomes attractive because we don’t find meaning in this world.

Most recently I heard Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum (founder and director of Jewish Media Resources) address a group in Chicago and he mentioned that in a study of high school students in Israel more than half the respondents said their goal in life was “to be famous.” He observed that one of the attractions of Facebook and Twitter is that we want people to pay attention and notice us.

His words hit home. Most of my own activity on Facebook wasn’t spent searching for people who needed Tehillim said on their behalf (Facebook happens to be a great way for people to let others know if and for whom tefillos are being requested) but rather to validate my own life. While I think there is value in social networking, connecting with old friends and sharing good news, I realized I was becoming a little too socially connected.

I decided to take action. The small steps I’ve taken so far are not original in any way but they do seem to be working for me. I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone (but not Facebook Messenger). Getting rid of those two apps has not only made me feel like less of an eved, a slave, to my phone, it has helped me reclaim the power of bechira, free will.

When I come home from work in the evening I have started putting my smartphone in “airplane” or “flight” mode, which turn off all wireless signals. I do this so that I am not distracted by my phone when I am with my family. After my kids go to sleep, I either turn my phone back on to look at my e-mails or I check the old fashioned way, on a computer. And I now only go onto Facebook every two or three days.

As the days get closer to Tisha B’Av and I mourn the loss of the place where Knesses Yisrael had the strongest connection with Hashem, I can’t help but think about the importance and the value of true connections.

Neil Harris lives in Chicago, where he works in the healthcare industry. When time allows he maintains a blog called Modern Uberdox at www.uberdox.blogspot.com.

Let’s Not Overlook Hillary’s Role In Obama’s Approach To Israel

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

The Washington Post trod over some familiar territory this past weekend with a 7,000-word retrospective on the Obama administration’s Middle East peace process misadventures.

The account strives to put President Obama in a favorable light. But even the most sympathetic narrative of this period must come to grips with the president’s blundering, most of which was rooted in his determination to distance the United States from Israel in a vain attempt to score points with the Arab world.

For the first three years of Obama’s presidency, Washington was focused on pressuring Israel, a policy that alienated the Jewish state but did nothing to nudge the Palestinians to make peace.

The Post’s lengthy rehashing of the president’s Middle East follies is part of the paper’s series of pieces evaluating the history of the last four years. It is worthwhile for the way it places in perspective the administration’s election-year Jewish charm offensive that has walked back some of the previous stands.

It also makes clear that while Obama deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the way he made a bad situation worse, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also ought to be held accountable for her role in the ongoing debacle. That’s a not unimportant point considering that Clinton was in Israel this week as part of an attempt on Obama’s part to smooth over relations.

Though the president’s surrogates continue to try to portray him as Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House, the Post provides a reminder for those who care to remember the truth that he arrived in office determined to put an end to the closeness between Israel and the United States that had developed during the Bush administration.

The Post describes a meeting with American Jewish leaders that took place in the wake of the June 2009 president’s speech to the Muslim world and his snub of Israel during his visit to the Middle East:

“If you want Israel to take risks, then its leaders must know that the United States is right next to them,” Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the president.Obama politely but firmly disagreed.

“Look at the past eight years,” he said, referring to the George W. Bush administration’s relationship with Israel. “During those eight years, there was no space between us and Israel, and what did we get from that? When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.”

Obama not only didn’t understand what had happened under Bush when the U.S. attempted to force the Palestinian Authority to eschew terror and embrace democracy, he knew nothing about the way the Arab world regarded the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Rather than interpreting his kicking Israel under the bus as an invitation to compromise and make peace, it merely convinced them they could just sit back and let Obama hammer Israel. Even when Prime Minister Netanyahu acceded to Obama’s demand for a settlement freeze in the West Bank, not only did he receive little thanks from Washington, the Palestinians continued to refuse to negotiate, secure in the belief the president would do the dirty work for them.

The same thing happened in 2011 when Obama ambushed Netanyahu before he arrived in Washington for a visit by giving a speech in which he called for the 1967 lines to be the starting point for future negotiations over borders.

Obama had, “in a single morning changed decades of U.S. policy on how the negotiations would unfold on the final borders of Israel.” Though the president tilted the diplomatic playing field in their direction, the Palestinians still wouldn’t budge and instead sought a futile end run around U.S. diplomacy at the United Nations.

Just as interesting is the Post’s account of the way Clinton helped turn what should have been dismissed as a minor kerfuffle over the announcement of a new housing start in Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Biden into a major diplomatic incident.

Though Clinton is still viewed by many American Jews as a friend of Israel, her 45-minute lecture of Netanyahu in which she treated the building of homes in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods of Israel’s capital as an “insult” to the United States was, in its way, just as significant as Obama’s later speech on the 1967 lines.

When Governments Elect Another People

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

http://sultanknish.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/when-governments-elect-another-people.html

Elections are won by demographics. No soup company blindly dumps cans of its newest “Turkey Coconut Bouillon with Nutmeg and Omega 3″ in Aisle 6 of the supermarket without testing to see what demographics such a hideous concoction might appeal to. Will the product appeal to lesbian single mothers, divorced Asian firefighters or eccentric Latvian millionaires? Politics is no different.

A political party has its base, definable groups who groove to its message, who eat up the red meat that its candidates toss their way. It has the demographic groups which will always vote for it and those who might swing its way. It knows them by race, gender, age, class, sexuality, home ownership and a thousand other statistical slices of the pie. It has those numbers broken down by states, cities and neighborhoods so that it has a good estimate of its chances in a given place and time based on the demographics of the people who live there.

This kind of information is helpful for winning elections– but showing up to play the electoral hand you’re dealt is for suckers. And by suckers, I mean conservative parties.

Breaking down the demographics is like looking at the cards in your hand. Once you’ve done that, the only remaining variable in a static game are your opponent’s cards. With election demographics, players can see all the cards everyone has. That makes the game static. Hands will inevitably be won or lost… unless you can draw some new cards.

The most obvious way to play the demographic game of thrones is with gerrymandered districts. A gerrymandered district is shaped to include a majority of the winning demographic leading to a nearly automatic victory for the party. It’s the political equivalent of stacking the deck.

Gerrymandered districts are of dubious legality, except when shaped to create a majority minority district, in which case it becomes an obligation under civil rights laws. This stacks the deck, creating permanent sinecures for some horribly incompetent politicians and permanent seats for the Democratic Party.

But that is just a matter of rearranging the cards in the deck. What if you could bring in cards from outside the deck? What if you could change the value of some cards? Then you would be on the way to being the best card sharp in Washington D.C. or London or Paris.

Sure you could win elections by creating a few gerrymandered districts, but you couldn’t win a country that way. To do that, you have to change the national demographics.

Suppose you were running our fictional soup company and you discovered that “Turkey Coconut Bouillon with Nutmeg and Omega 3″ isn’t popular with key demographics. The only people who like it are unemployed Pakistani immigrants, lesbian single mothers and divorced Asian firefighters.

Sure you could take a shot at putting out another flavor, but damn it, you like this one. And you also spent your entire advertising budget for the next three years promoting it, and thanks to your ad campaign, everyone now associates your company with “Turkey Coconut Bouillon with Nutmeg and Omega 3″. And if people don’t like it, then your company is doomed.

You could try to change people’s minds, or you could try to change the demographics to ones that favor your soup. To do that, you would have to bring in a lot of Pakistani immigrants, create a poor economic climate, promote divorce and homosexuality, and create some public sector jobs.

Luckily, no soup company can do that sort of thing. But governments can.

That’s the neat thing about governments, if they want to change national demographics, bring in more immigrants, create more single-parent families and more unemployment; they can do all those things easily.

Suppose, for example, that instead of running a soup company, you are a UK Labour politician. They say you’re bright, and while that may be debatable and some time later the very people who said it will spit in disgust at the idea, but you are young and you can see the writing on the wall. After Thatcher, there’s no future for the kind of cheap labor radical who threatens to take the workers into the streets at every opportunity. The working-class vote that your party identified with is on the way out. And even if it wasn’t, it won’t survive the leftward drift of your party.

Excerpt of Letter From Prime Minister Netanyahu to Shaul Mofaz

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Following is an excerpt from the letter that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent to Shaul Mofaz on Tuesday:

“I regret your decision to give up on an opportunity to make an historic change. After 64 years, we were very close to a substantial change in the division of the burden. I gave you a proposal that would have led to the conscription of ultra-orthodox and Arabs from the age of 18. I explained to you that the only way to implement this on the ground is gradually and without tearing Israeli society apart, especially at a time when the State of Israel is facing many significant challenges. I will continue to work toward the responsible solution that Israeli society expects.”

Obama Says He Failed to Push Mid East Peace, Vows to Do Better in 2nd Term

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

President Obama said in an interview that he has failed to advance the Middle East peace process “the way I wanted.”

“I have not been able to move the peace process forward in the Middle East the way I wanted,” he told WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington on Sunday, in response to a question on whether there was “anything you believe you failed at, not because Congress wouldn’t play ball, but that rests squarely on your shoulders and has you desperate to get that second term to atone for it?”

“There were a bunch of things that didn’t get done that I think are important…” the president answered. “The things I can do without Congress tend to be in the foreign policy area. In that area I have not been able to move the peace process forward in the Middle East the way I wanted. It’s something we focused on very early, but the truth of the matter is that the parties, ultimately, they’ve got to want it as well. So we’ve got a lot of work to do…”

Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s position on the Israel-Palestinian peace “process” is not fundamentally different from Obama’s. Last October his campaign stated: “With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mitt Romney will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations is unacceptable.”

But, much like Obama, Romney is committed to the idea of the 2-state solution.

JTA content was used in this report.

Eytan Kobre’s Anti-Religious Rant

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Once again I am disappointed at the Charedi reaction to a possible draft in Israel. This time it is attorney Eytan Kobre, who reacted in his weekly Mishpacha Magazine column Text Messages. And that’s all it is. A reflexive knee-jerk reaction. It is not any kind of rational argument to make his case that Charedim in Israel should not be drafted.

Unless you consider “Because the Gedolim say so” to be a rational argument. This of course assumes that there is universal opposition by rabbinic leaders to a draft. That would be false – since Religious Zionist leaders are in favor of it. Nonetheless his rabbinic leadership assumes that a universal draft will change the Charedi paradigm of learning full time. Which they consider a Yehoreg V’Al Yaavor.

First, I do not concede that this is a foregone conclusion.  Secondly, I don’t think that is a bad thing if it is done the right way – a position I’ve explained many times in the past but beyond the scope of this post.

My problem with Mr. Kobre is his assumption that anyone who is in favor of a universal draft is out to ‘get him.’  By ‘him’, I mean Charedim.  What motivates those of us who favor equalizing the draft, he says, is our distinct mission to destroy Torah Judaism. That is how he frames the issue.

There is not a single word addressing the question about the lack of equal sacrifice by all. No explanation about why all Charedim should be exempt. For Mr. Kobre it is all about ‘Good versus evil.’ The good guys being the Charedim - and the bad guys are anyone who would dare to suggest that Charedim should not be given an automatic exemption.

What makes matters worse is he impugns religious Jews as the worst among his detractors. He prefers that the opposition were coming from a secular or even anti-religious sources. That would of course make it easier for him to claim that this is all about anti-religious secular government.

His rhetoric is quite angry. He  accuses his detractors of false piety and lying about their motives. As though the true motive was to destroy the Torah!

What prompted Eytan’s rant was an interview in the previous issue of Mishpacha of Aviad Friedman, a Charedi member of the Plesner committee – charged with coming up with a proposal for a universal draft. Which they did.

Mr. Friedman who seems to have impeccable Charedi credentials supported drafting as many Charedim into the IDF as possible.  For this he was vilified and called a liar – applying to him the tired cliche of ‘showing his true colors.’  As if it is impossible to be Charedi and support the draft.

What was his lie? He said that he didn’t think that there is any real hatred of Charedim in Israel.  Really? That’s a lie? Yes – there may be some hatred by a few on the radical left, but for the most part, there is no mass secular hatred. Only a sense that an element of fairness is missing in the way the secular Jew is treated versus the way the Charedi Jew is treated – especially  when it comes to army service.

I take strong issue with Mr. Kobre’s description of religious Jews as the enemy just because they support a universal draft. That is a canard!

Just to be clear I will restate my own position on this issue. Israel should apply its conscription law equally to all demographic segments. Exemptions and deferrals should be applied equally to everyone.  If a solider needs to be put in harms way – every able-bodied citizen – no matter what segment they belong to should be subject to the that possibility. No entire segment should get and an automatic exemption from danger.

If the draft is going to be equally applied, religious sensitivities must be guaranteed to all. This means that the infrastructure must be created and enforced so that Charedim will be able to practice Judaism as they  best understand it.  The bottom line for me is that no Charedi mother should ever be faced by a Chiloni or Religious Zionist mother asking the question, “Why did my son have to die in battle while your son was safe in a Yeshiva?”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/eytan-kobres-anti-religious-rant/2012/07/16/

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