Re “Jews Key In South Florida Vote” (news story, Nov. 3):
As a longtime resident of Boca Raton, a converted Jewish umbilical-cord Democrat, and chair of Jewish Outreach for the Boca Raton Republican Club, I constantly challenge the political intelligence of my fellow Jews here in South Florida.
I can tell you that many South Florida Jews do not wish their neighbors to know of their political feelings, nor do they register as Republicans because local political leaders peruse voting records. They actually fear that information getting out. The saying down here is, “If they find out I’m a Republican, I’ll be thrown out of the card game and into the pool.” They are scared.
Boca Raton, FL
W. Hempstead’s Yeshiva Gedolah
The Oct. 27 two-page spread on West Hempstead highlighted many of the community’s fine resources and featured wonderful pictures of important community figures. I was disappointed, however, that there was no mention of the Yeshiva Gedolah of West Hempstead.
The yeshiva, which is strongly supported by all of West Hempstead’s rabbonim and has been warmly welcomed by the community at large, is housed in the Anshei Shalom Beis Medrash (472 Hempstead Ave). Under the leadership of Rav Zev Cinamon, the yeshiva offers numerous learning opportunitiesto the community at large – including a Thursday night mishmar program, women’s shiurim and a beginner’s Talmud program.
On a personal note, I consider myself most fortunate to have among the yeshiva’s rebbeim individuals who are deeply connected to our community. Rabbis Yossi Azose, Darrell Ginsberg and Akiva Sacknovitz are all residents of West Hempstead and Rabbi Sam Rudansky is a rebbe at HANC.
West Hempstead, NY
Re the cancellation of the scheduled agunah conference in Jerusalem (news story, Nov. 10):
My graduate-school age niece does not understand it: if a woman – one who acts within the legal norms of a halachic community – is a victim of get refusal and cannot protect herself under halacha, doesn’t the halachic community (especially its decisors) have the responsibility to protect her from suffering?
For a couple of years now, I have co-chaired the JOFA Agunah Task Force. At first I shied away from involvement with individual agunot, preferring to put my energies into seeking global solutions.
But I have not been able to stay insulated from individual women in transition who call me all the time, most of them confused as to what to do, seeking money for lawyers, unsure how the bet din works, afraid of losing their children, afraid of becoming pariahs in their communities, afraid their children will not find shidduchim, having husbands who have stolen their yerushahs or having husbands who are influential in the community (or wealthy).
Why have these women, who entered marriage with kiddushin in such good faith, now become so disillusioned with the halachic system? I think the answer is the failed expectation of the justice my niece assumed. Surely that cannot be the last word.
We must intensify our efforts to correct the scourge on Jewish law that puts women at the mercy of exploiting, vengeful husbands in failed marriages. Failure on the part of our community to act can only further the disillusionment of young people. If the notion of communal responsibility does not apply to the plight of agunot, what does? And if the rabbis are not acting now, why not?
Batya Levin, Chair
JOFA Agunah Task Force
Sympathy For Neturei Karta
The Oct. 27 Inquiring Photographer column concerned the reaction of Jews to Neturei Karta. I am in my late 40’s and had been a fervent Zionist since my teen years. But last year, after much soul-searching and investigation, I had to end my support of the Zionist state, while at the same time never ceasing to love and defend Eretz Yisrael – which God will eventually permanently give to Am Yisrael.
The two – Zionist state and Eretz Yisrael – are not the same.
Like some of the respondents in the column, I too used to hold Neturei Karta in very low esteem, and wrote them off as self-hating and crazy. But after learning of the collaboration of many secular Zionists with the Nazis during World War Two, I decided to read some of Neturei Karta’s material. I also had occasion to read Rabbi Michoel ber Weissmandl’sMin Hameitzar.
The reason Neturei Karta associates to some extent with Muslims is not understood by those who simply see these meetings on the news. Neturei Karta does this to show Muslims that not all Jews want to harm them – that not all Jews harbor hatred for them. They do this because, in their own way, they feel it is a matter of pikuach nefesh. And they may be right.
Many of your respondents are rather young and do not remember that prior to and during World War II, almost all religious Jews were against the idea of the creation of a Zionist state. The Jews who established the state were almost to a man secular and even anti-religious.
Since becoming a baal teshuvah a number of years ago, I have had occasion to associate with many chassidic Jews, and I find that those who are the most anti-Zionist tend, with few exceptions, to also be the most deeply spiritual and humble in their day-to-day associations. I puzzled for a long time as to why this might be before I realized it’s because they avoid the politics of Zionism and the necessary associations with non-religious Jews that being a Zionist eventually entails. They also have a greater faith that Hashem – and He alone – will deliver our people.
Is it really so wrong to believe that the true Messianic Kingdom cannot be established until Moshiach comes? Is there anyone who trulythinks the secular Zionist state is representative of Torah Judaism? Was the founding of that state simply a man-made desperate act of wanting to force the Redemption without waiting for Hashem and His time?
Worst of all, was the state’s founding simply an attempt by anti-religious Jews to find a way to “be Jewish” without having to be “burdened” with the keeping of the myriad laws of the Torah? For many of those Jews, is the secular state not simply a modern-day golden calf?
Kahane Was Too Honest
Although Rabbi Meir Kahane was a lover and leader of the Jewish people worldwide and a paragon of truth – the Ultimate Truth – the Jewish Establishment saw the need to silence his words.
We Jews, said the Establishment, are not into that kind of thing. We are better. We are peaceful. We are quiet. We are virtuous.
The Establishment was and is terribly wrong. Reb Meir possessed a certain gravitas, a special skill that enabled him to marshal the support of the people, to galvanize and unify like few others. If only, instead of ostracizing him, we’d given him the opportunity to lead; if only we’d allowed ourselves to be led by a man whose greatness was eclipsed only by his prophetic vision.
He was a genius, a Torah scholar, and an extremely eloquent speaker. All agree he possessed those characteristics. I think the Right – at least the Orthodox Jewish Right – largely acknowledges Rabbi Kahane’s prescience, his uncanny ability to have predicted the events we’ve seen unfold over the sixteen years since his passing. It’s time the rest of the world, however grudgingly, acknowledges it as well.
Is it not time to give Kahaneism a try? We can shelve it if it doesn’t work. Shelve it like we’ve shelved every other preposterous plan that not only has not borne any fruit, but has shed blood and created orphans, widows and widowers; has shattered hearts in the thousands; has broken hopes and dreams in the millions; and has left in its wake sorrow and pain, anguish and surrender.
The blame for all these woes belongs squarely on our shoulders – the shoulders of the Jewish Establishment, the Israeli government, leftists, pacifists, even Orthodox Jews.
At the risk of being labeled a racist and a fascist, I echo Kahane in that as much as I detest seeing the pictures on the evening news of a poor innocent Lebanese child, barely three years old, badly burned, bloodied and severely injured as a result of shrapnel from an Israeli tank shell, I much more deplore visualizing Gilad Shalit or Udi Wasserman or Eldad Regev (and let’s not forget Ron Arad), the poor kidnapped soldiers, in the conditions they must be enduring – and I only cringe when imagining, God forbid, what fate awaits them if we don’t get to them soon.
Call me a racist or a bigot. If my not wishing to see any more Jewish blood spilled; if my crying out for my people, my brothers and sisters; if my defending my country and my countrymen; if my wishing to see an end to the two-thousand-year-old chants of “Soi Juif (Dirty Jew)!” and the inevitable physical manifestations of those chants – if any of these things paints me as a racist or a bigot, I’m prepared and proud to live with such titles.
If Rabbi Kahane had had a louder voice – if the Jewish people, especially the Orthodox, had enabled him to have a louder voice – and if world Jewry had not ostracized him, Israel would today be a bastion of morality, of tranquility, of economic and financial prowess, of total bliss, of light to the world in every way.
Unfortunately, Rabbi Kahane made one fatal mistake and, ironically enough, that fatal mistake only proves and further bolsters his gadlus. He was too honest. He should have lied and cheated and used any and all tactics available to him in order to get votes and avoid assassination. He should have resorted to the very same antics his colleagues in the Knesset do as a matter of routine.
Had I been Rabbi Kahane’s Karl Rove, I would have advised him to sing a liberal tune, and then once in office do a 180, just like they all do. But Reb Meir possessed qualities such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, courage, fealty, menshlichkeit – the very qualities that Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid, Tzipi Livni, Bibi Natanyahu, Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, and Israel’s other feckless, spineless politicians have either never had or lost somewhere along the way.
Reb Meir Dovid ben Reb Yechezkel Shraga Ha’Kohen zichrono tzadik V’Kadosh l’bracha l’chayei haolam haba – may God avenge your blood.
Rabbi Stephen Polter, Esq.
Elmont Jewish Center