We Shouldn’t Be Celebrating AIPAC
Jason Ciment’s article about AIPAC is totally out of touch with reality. His glowing report about the great “nourishment” one can receive at an AIPAC Conference misses all the truths about support for Judaism and Israel in which we believe.
How can Ciment applaud a group whose president, Howard Kohr, addresses his 18,000 attendees with the message of anticipating a Palestinian state with the Palestinian flag proudly flying? That message should have had him booted right out of the conference. It doesn’t reflect the approach of the American and Israeli governments, nor does it express the views of the average person who sees the terror and brutality of the PA every day in Israel.
Just recently there were Israelis murdered by a PA car ramming in Samaria and a knifing in the Old City of Jerusalem. Howard Kohr’s statement was a disgrace and betrayal and AIPAC attendees should stay away from the next year’s conference if this is the kind of message they will receive.
Another glaring omission from Ciment’s article was the parallel YESHA Conference that was held down the block from the DC Convention Center where AIPAC was holding court. Why was it necessary for representatives from Judea and Samaria to hold their own conference? Because they are not welcome at AIPAC. I, personally, was told that support for Judea and Samaria is not part of AIPAC’s philosophy.
So YESHA ran a standing-room-only event with hundreds more outside the synagogue, hoping to gain entry. They missed hearing Minister Naftali Bennett, Minister Ayelet Shaked, Consul-General Dani Dayan, Efrat Mayor Oded Ravivi, and many more. The crowd was thrilled to hear about sovereignty being applied to Judea and Samaria. Shame on AIPAC for excluding them and shame on Kohr and his acolytes for allowing a betrayal of our beliefs.
Another point that must be made about one of your news articles last week: Why do you call newly designated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “hawk” on Iran just because he knows – as we did from the beginning – that the Iran “deal” is a disaster? He is not a hawk – and neither is the president, who selected him. They are sensible realists who deserve our support.
Americans for a Safe Israel
The Trump Mideast Plan
Your March 8 editorial (“The Trump Mideast Plan: A Palestinian State Or Not?”) correctly pointed out the tragedy that would almost certainly befall the State of Israel if the outcome of a Trump Administration-brokered deal included, G-d forbid, the creation of a Palestinian state.
Much appreciated is your view that “if there is to be a Palestinian state, it should properly be part of Jordan, which is predominantly comprised of those who identify as Palestinians.”
What is left for American supporters of Israel to do is continue to remind U.S, politicians of the intense danger that yet another terrorist-led base of operations would pose to Israeli civilians. But another, and perhaps more vital, thing to remind our politicians is that not every international conflict can be “solved” in the way so many the world over seem to think. The Israel – Palestinian Arab conflict will not be “solved” by creating more Gazas and destroying more Jewish towns like the ones in Gush Katif.
Karma Feinstein Cohen
Forgetting The Widowed?
As I and my son are widowed, perhaps you can bring light to make persons aware that persons need Pesach invites. Perhaps womem in shul could coordinate that persons should not be alone for sedarim. Thanks.
Anonymous Letters To the Editor (I)
Kudos to The Jewish Press for your new policy on allowing the publication of anonymous letters to the editor. I never understood the “standard industry policy” of not publishing anonymous letters. The claim that “a person of integrity does not have to hide when they speak or write” is nonsensical. Many people of integrity don’t want their names connected with letters to the editor as they don’t want readers of those letters to challenge them by telephoning them, writing letters to them at home, or confronting them at shul, at the supermarket, or at work.
Also, with the exception of the views of VIPs (those of a rav, a politician, a Ph.D., a business leader, or a scientist), a letter writer’s opinion is of no greater importance than anyone else’s, so why even sign a letter with one’s name?
As long as an anonymous letter is not defamatory, inconsistent with Jewish laws or values, and contains no false statements or foul language, there is no reason it should not be considered for publication.
It is really beyond offensive to see Rabbi Bush repeat the CDC talking point comparing a healthy UN-vaccinated child to a child waving a loaded gun in a classroom and therefore needing to be excluded from school in order not to endanger other children. If someone is not sick, or contagious, they are no danger to others.
Rabbi Bush omits any mention of the well-known corruption and falsified vaccine safety science in the CDC that was publicized in the documentary “Vaxxed.” Rabbi Bush omits the inconvenient fact that mumps and measles “outbreaks” (there have been no epidemics) have been occurring in fully vaccinated populations due to selection pressure induced mutant vaccine strains which tend to be more virulent than wild strains, and not because of un-vaccinated individuals.
There has never been a comprehensive long-term vaccine safety study comparing all health outcomes and mortality between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. The few limited studies that have been done demonstrate that vaccines can have many unintended harmful and even fatal effects including neurological damage and autoimmune disease.
In short, the science upon which current public health vaccine policy is based is outdated and incomplete particularly as it pertains to vaccine safety. As such, there is no basis for a halachic consideration until the science is actually done. Rabbis should be particularly concerned about the current assault on the vaccine religious exemption laws, which is being funded by the CDC through grants to non-profit organizations. It is the height of chutzpa that federal tax dollars are being used to undermine religious liberty and freedom.
Equally disturbing is the way Rabbi Bush shuts down the conversation by stating there is “no debate” and those medical doctors and scientists who dare question vaccines are simply from the “fringe” and not to be paid attention to. Unlike halacha, there is no such thing as “settled science.”
Flatbush Anti Vaxxer
Anonymous Letters To the Editor (II)
I was flattered that The Jewish Press cited an article of mine from more than 10 years ago before announcing that the paper is changing its policy to allow anonymous letters. If the paper feels this is the right decision from a business standpoint, it is not my place to disagree; every publication must keep its readership happy. If, however, the change was made strictly on philosophical grounds, I urge the management to rethink its decision.
My words are easy to dismiss, but my article quoted our great teacher Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, whose view cannot be so easily dismissed. I share his words again: “[I]n view of the seriousness and significance of the issue, I consider it my duty to announce, in connection with the open letter printed below, that any replies written anonymously or signed with a fictitious name will not receive any consideration from me. One who lacks the courage to sign his true name to his views must be aware that what he is saying is meaningless and that he therefore cannot expect others to take notice of it. Let the anonymous gnats buzz happily in the sunny meadows. I certainly do not want to spoil their pleasure” (Collected Writings, Vol. 6, pg. 198, emphasis added).
Surely R’ Hirsch knew the Rambam and subscribed to the idea that we should accept the truth from whomever it comes. He was a paragon of truth. Yet, it was this very truthfulness that led R’ Hirsch, and those who admire him, to scorn anonymous letter-writers.
What would our Torah study be like if all our Sages – who often expressed controversial views – chose to remain anonymous? If we really believed that we can separate the person from the opinion, it shouldn’t matter. Yet anyone even marginally versed in Torah understands that the source of an idea is of critical importance to our evaluation of its significance. Indeed, the Gemara often goes to great lengths to clarify the true source of a teaching, and does not content itself simply to analyze the idea. It is true that wise words that come even from ordinary people are taken seriously by the Gemara – even, at times, wisdom from non-Jewish sources – but the source factors heavily into the critical process.
Indeed, this is how it should be. Would The Jewish Press argue that it is irrelevant if an idea comes from a rosh yeshiva or an ignoramus to the extent that we don’t even need to know who said what? A scholar can make a mistake, and anyone can come up with a good point, but one’s expertise and qualifications – or lack thereof – need to be known when evaluating any opinion, not to mention possible biases and agendas.
The editorial asked whether a Lakewood resident who follows Rav Aharon Kotler but has a more positive worldview about the founding of the State of Israel should advertise his belief. Why not? Would a great man like Rav Kotler be personally threatened? Would any reasonable person with integrity find this unconscionable? If the students of Hillel and Shamai could disagree about fundamental laws of purity, yet still marry into each other’s families, why must we break our small community into tiny factions, divided by every disagreement big and small, and erect iron walls to insure no one with a slightly different opinion sneaks inside? Are we so insecure that we cannot bear the mere presence of someone who thinks a bit differently to the extent that such a person and his family must be destroyed?
I would understand the need for anonymity if a resident of North Korea wanted to write a letter against his government or if someone in a Muslim country wanted to suggest having Days of Calm instead of Days of Rage. Attaching one’s name to such a controversial idea would void one’s life insurance policy. But should expressing a contrary view about the shidduch world, or Israel, or Donald Trump, or most anything else in The Jewish Press require the same anonymity for the sake of piku’ach nefesh?
If that is the case, then the problem is far greater than evaluating the worthiness of the opinion. It means that our community is run by bullies, thought police, enemies of the Torah, and enemies of truth. It is no wonder that many of our brightest youth become disaffected with the community and go “off the derech.” I would suggest that many of them have simply come to the conclusion that our community, for all the wonderful attributes it does have, is largely off the derech, and it is hard to disagree with them.
If someone who states the obvious about the shidduch world – that it is a corrupt and broken system – will be blackballed from shidduchim, and if someone from Lakewood who decides that Israel is God’s will after all would be treated like a pariah, then I can only wonder why we should want to be part of such a society. Because aside from the terrible fear and bullying it’s swell?
The Jewish Press responds:
Chananya Weissman quotes Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch in support of his position that anonymous opinions are worthless. We would remind him that this very same Rav Hirsch wrote his first book – The Nineteen Letters – under a pseudonym. Many other rabbanim acted similarly. (Indeed, until today we have no idea who wrote various sefarim, including one of the most famous mussar works of all time, Orchos Tzaddikim.)
How, then, to explain Rav Hirsch’s comment about anonymous letters? If one looks it up, one learns that he made it in the context of an fierce controversy revolving around the obligation to secede from Reform-led communities – a controversy that Rav Hirsch believed concerned the very core of Judaism. He felt so strongly about the matter that he penned two sharply-written open letters attacking a fellow gadol b’Yisrael – Rav Seligmann Baer Bamberger – that, together, run 90 pages long in English translation. He wrote the latter letter even though he testified that doing so harmed his health.
We are happy to agree with Mr. Weissman that when the matter under discussion is one of crucial importance, an author need not feel it necessary to respond to anonymous rebuttals. To do so would be to “punch down.” That’s why, for example, authors of articles rarely respond to comments left online. It simply is beneath their dignity to do so.
But that doesn’t mean the comments themselves are worthless. Indeed, some of them make very incisive points and are worth reading. And even authors sometimes make an exception and respond to anonymous comments if they find them thoughtful, well-written, or otherwise important.
To take another example from history, the famous philosopher, Moses Mendelsohn, wrote his only Jewish-themed book, Jerusalem, because an anonymous author challenged him to convert to Christianity. Was Mendelsohn a fool for doing so? Hardly. He believed the open challenge came from educated quarters and felt it needed to be answered publicly even though he greatly disliked arguing about religion.
Mr. Weissman bemoans people keeping quiet due to community pressure. But that is just human nature. Does Mr. Weissman share his opinions on everything with everybody? When he sits down at the Seder this Pesach, will he voice his opinion on every subject that arises? Even if he knows it may cause others around the table to feel uncomfortable? Even if it will ruin the ru’ach at the table? Even if it will make him the center of attention?
Perhaps he will. But we don’t believe that starting fights is always a mitzvah nor do we believe that placing oneself at the center of attention is always a good thing.
We also don’t think that community pressure (or social cohesiveness) is, per se, a bad thing. It is community pressure that forces many of us come to shul Shabbos morning rather than sleep in; it is community pressure that keeps many couples from divorcing, and it is community pressure that until 10-20 years ago led men of a certain inclination to marry and start a family rather than publicly celebrate their urges and live a degenerate lifestyle.
Is community pressure too great in some communities? Perhaps. But the fault lies, not in frumkeit, but in human nature. Social ostracism is hardly a frum phenomenon. One need only look at the price Trump supporters pay for voicing their political opinions in liberal circles.
But this is all beside the point. Perhaps community pressure is too great – we’re not sure – but regardless, the fact is that right now it exists, and the question is: Under the present circumstances, is it appropriate to accept letters to the editor written by people who prefer to remain anonymous? We believe it is. We believe there are many good reasons for wishing to remain anonymous that have nothing to do with cowardice, and therefore we will henceforth accept such letters (as did The New York Times and Chicago Tribune, incidentally, until the mid-20th century). As we wrote last week, “Readership participation and the exchange of ideas are more important to us than signatures.”