Rabbi Porush’s Courage

Reader Joseph Weidenfeld is highly unfair, and way off base, for insulting Rabbi Menachem Porush (Letters, April 29). Weidenfeld claims Rabbi Porush has “chutzpah” for criticizing the girush (disengagement) from Gaza and Shomron when his own party, Agudath Israel, supported this policy and saved the Sharon government from collapse.

Such reasoning is patently ridiculous. It is akin to criticizing MK Uzi Landau for the policies of his Likud party or Assemblyman Dov Hikind for the policies of his Democratic party.

Rabbi Porush does not control the Agudath Israel party. That party, and the Degel Hatorah party, are controlled by the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, of which a majority (including, but not limited to, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe and Harav Elyashiv) saw fit to support the Sharon government’s girush policy in return for certain benefits.

Indeed, this decision was met with a vehement and public protest by several Moetzes members, including the Sadugerer Rebbe, Bostoner Rebbe and Hagaon Rav Binyamin Silber. Along with Rishon Letzion Harav Mordechai Eliahu and Harav Meir Mazuz, they signed a protest proclamation (kol koreh). This appeared prominently in The Jewish Press.

Your competition, the Hamodia newspaper, controlled by Ger, refused to publicize or print this proclamation by the Moetzes members – even when offered the full commercial ad rate for doing so.

In truth, Rabbi Porush is exhibiting significant courage for speaking his conscience about the travesty of justice currently taking place in Israel. For that he should be commended, not vilified.

Usher Z. Piller
(Via E-Mail)

Mother’s Agenda

I was shocked and disturbed by reader Margaret Cone’s apparent foolishness regarding Mother Agapia’s anti-Semitism (Letters, April 29). Mother Agapia may be principled and committed according to her own faith, but that is no excuse for her consistent vitriol against Israel and the Jewish people.

For a little reality check, I suggest that Ms. Cone visualize what it would be like to visit the Mother under Islamic rule. The situation on the ground for Christian institutions and clergy would certainly be quite a shock, if they were allowed to exist at all.

Jennifer Bernstein
St. Louis, MO

Women And Halacha

I really enjoyed the April 22 op-ed article “To Recline Or Not To Recline” by Shayna Finman. It’s nice to see The Jewish Press focusing on the halachic obligations of women during Pesach and, moreover, publishing a woman’s analysis of these obligations.

Keep up the good work!

Zohara Cohen
Washington, DC

Landfill Nation?

Several years ago a prominent Israeli politician publicly bemoaned the fact that Israel had run out of land for future growth and would have no alternative but to build man-made islands from garbage refuse in the Mediterranean Sea and link them to the metro Tel Aviv area via bridges. A rather far-fetched proposal, to be sure, but when one observes how successive Israeli governments have prostrated themselves before Arab terrorists since 1993, offering to cede more and more land, the need for such islands no longer seems so outlandish.

Ironically, the author of the island proposal was Mr. Disengagement, Ariel Sharon. The very same Sharon who publicly regretted the destruction of Yamit and now has totally appropriated his election opponent Amram Mitzna’s radical view that Israel’s only survival strategy is to expel thousands of patriotic Jews from their homes and unilaterally retreat back toward the 1949 armistice lines – demarcations that lifetime dove Abba Eban rightfully labeled “Auschwitz” borders.

We must fervently pray that God will empower us to unite and foil the misguided plans of our sheepish, venal leaders and their grinning international patrons. Otherwise, Israel’s future will indeed be aquatic and may, God forbid, necessitate the construction of Israeli annexes to Holocaust museums.

Henry Moscovic
Flushing, NY

Troubled By Awareness Center

It is hard for me to understand how a person who takes halacha seriously could support the Awareness Center and its practice of publishing the names of individuals who have been simply accused – not convicted – of abuse.

Yet when I visited the Awareness Center website (I had been blissfully ignorant of its existence until about a month ago), I saw that Rabbi Yosef Blau, a prominent member of the Rabbinical Council of America, is listed as the organization’s secretary and acting vice president, and is identified there as mashgiach ruchani (spiritual guidance counselor) at RIETS, a member of the executive board of the Orthodox Caucus and of the executive commission of the Orthodox Forum.

I also saw that Rabbi Reuven Bulka is listed on the Awareness Center’s website as a member of its advisory board. I knew from an earlier visit to the Rabbinical Council of America’s website that Rabbi Bulka is listed over there as the RCA’s director of Rabbinic Services.

Rather than pursuing members on the basis of questionable or tenuous evidence, perhaps the RCA should focus on the implications of the incontrovertible evidence available to anyone with Internet access. I’m sure that Rabbis Blau and Bulka have answers for their involvement with the Awareness Center – and I do not wish to sit in judgment. But their involvement does seem, on its face, to be something that should pique the interest of those charged with doing the investigative work of the RCA’s Vaad Hakavod.

Yitzchak Dorman
(Via E-Mail)

Overriding Halacha

As a frum former professor of political science, I have been following with great interest your series of editorials on the Rabbinical Council of America’s investigation and expulsion of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler. The Jewish Press is to be commended for bringing to the attention of the general public a problem that desperately needs airing.

Although significant in their own right, the issues of (a) the RCA’s obvious “prevarications,” as you put it, concerning the Jerusalem Bet Din, and (b) whether or not Rabbi Tendler was railroaded, are to me really secondary. Of primary importance in the long run is the need to see this sad episode as part of the continuing battle for the soul of Modern Orthodoxy.

The issue of sexual abuse by clergy has, for the past few years now, been at the cutting edge of the public agenda. Fueled by revelations of widespread abuse in the Catholic Church, an effort has been underway to move that issue, with all its fury and passion, onto the Jewish agenda, regardless of the scope of the problem as it exists in our community. (I do not, nor would any sane person, question the existence of the problem, which is undeniable.)

Some of those who seek to make this the number-one issue confronting American Jewry do so as a means of catapulting themselves into the forefront of communal awareness. Others, no doubt, have long chafed at the aura of rectitude that in their view shielded certain figures of prominence from accountability. Still others approach the issue with the purest of motives, but, in their zeal to bring justice to victims of abuse, make short shrift of such concepts as presumption of innocence.

It was bound to happen, given the current climate, that there would be those who seek to override the strict halachic requirements necessary for finding an accused party guilty of abuse. It brings to mind the by now familiar refrain that Judaism needs to adjust to the times.

I hasten to add that I have no reason to attribute venality or ulterior motives to those involved in the Tendler case. But they – and the rest of us, for that matter – should always keep context in mind. The abandonment of the bet din route, and the flourishing of a slander-mongering operation like the Awareness Center, should be a giant wake-up call to all Torah-loving and fair-minded Jews.

Leon Miller
(Via E-Mail)

Cell Phones In Shuls

People are using cell phones in all places and at all times. A member of my shul has been using a cell phone even in middle of chazoras hashatz. I am constantly being disturbed by people talking on cell phones while I am trying to learn in my beis medrash. Is this the respect that Hashem deserves? Where is the awe of a mokom kadosh, a mikdosh me’at?

I would like to suggest that every shul and beis medrash, in order to prevent cellular communication, install a jammer device to block all cell phone frequencies. Of course, in certain locations these devices may be illegal. Outside of those jurisdictions, however, this may well be a workable solution.

Shimon Adelstein
(Via E-Mail)

The Search For Meaning When Tragedy Strikes

I read with great interest Ariel Fischer’s article, “Who I Am” (op-ed, April 29). I think my landsman has touched on a critical issue facing Klal Yisrael today.

Indeed, Pesach has come and gone, and our hopes for the geulah, and the zechus to bring the korban Pesach have, once again, been dashed. Sadly, we remain in golus, left to consider what it is that we need to do to tip the heavenly scales in favor of re-establishing Malchus Dovid.

This Pesach, however, we gave a korban of a different kind. News spread swiftly in Monsey on 12 Nisan when one of our holiest of neshomos was called back to shomayim just ten short years after its sojourn in this world. Surely we all must consider the impact of these events as they occurred here in Monsey.

We all know that Monsey is a true makom Torah. Minyanim operate day and night, channeling the tefillos of the tzibbur heavenward. There are literally thousands of b’nai Torah sitting and learning in our shuls and batei midrashim. At the same time, tens and tens of thousands of tzedakah dollars are being given and distributed to our ani’ei ircha and the Jewish community at large. When it comes to bain adom l’Makom, one would be hard-pressed to find a community more focused on so lofty a task as serving our Creator.

Yet tragedy has struck, and it is imperative that we search for and find the meaning in such an event – made all the more significant by the fact that the niftar bore the name of the yom tov, Pesach.

I humbly offer that the answer lies not in our understanding of what bain adom l’chaveiro means, but in our execution. We all know the harm lashon hora causes, yet it is literally destroying our neighborhoods. We all know that we need to treat our neighbors with the same respect and patience that we hope to be the beneficiary of, yet we can’t seem to practice it in the same way we talk about it in our classrooms. You can see it on the streets. We have become, b”H, so large that we have lost a critical part of our identity – our ability to treat each other with the inherent respect we all deserve.

To be fair, Monsey is nothing more than a microcosm of the entire Jewish community, as recent tragedies in Teaneck and Williamsburg attest. All of us, wherever we are, can impact positively on our communities by taking the time to understand that the highest form of avoda bain adom l’Makom manifests itself in our bain adom l’chaveiro, which takes place not only in shul or the beis medrash but in our homes, on our streets, in our stores, and anywhere else we come across another Jew.

Perry Dubinsky
(Via E-Mail)

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