Exceptions to Curfew
I have received many concerned calls regarding the new curfew, which begins every night at 8 p.m. and is extended, as of now, through Sunday, June 5.
I have been in touch with police officials to express concerns about the curfew limiting people’s ability to attend Maariv or the mikvah. Cops will be instructed to allow for religious obligations and not issue summonses.
If you should face an issue during curfew that requires my intervention, please immediately contact Flatbush Shomrim (718-338-9797), who will refer these calls directly to me. If you have any questions, contact me directly at CDeutsch@council.nyc.gov.
Councilman Chaim Deutsch
Ignoring the Poverty Among Us
I just heard someone give a shiur in which he bemoaned the small weddings and bar mitzvahs we’re having due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What’s even more difficult is hosting modest affairs without a pandemic. For some in the frum community, life hasn’t really changed much since the lockdown began. They are still alone, they still live in poverty, they still don’t shop at fancy stores, and they still don’t travel for Yom Tov.
They’ve lived modestly for many years without the unity and never-ending sympathy everyone now receives. The only difference is that now they get to hear how wonderful people are for refraining from buying $5,000 wedding gowns or buying $750 weekday blouses for an “amazing” $350.
A rav recently said giving maaser doesn’t mean you can spend the rest of the money Hashem gave you on outrageous luxuries. Yes, many people who spend are good and kind neshamos, but they’re exposed to the goyish world of extremism, and the satan has made many them feel they need or even deserve these things. None of this is true, of course. And their neshamos know that.
I don’t think people realize the magnitude of the poverty in the frum community. Living among us are kollel families, single mothers, agunos, and struggling families that only have meat once a week. If you were Hashem, how would you feel about this situation?
Ban Phones From Shul
As shuls slowly reopen, we ought to ponder why Hashem forced us to shutter them in the first place.
We are taught that despite the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Shechinah continues to reside among us, specifically in our shuls and battei midrash. Hence, when we attend shul, we encounter the Shechinah.
But if we don’t comport ourselves properly in shul, we, G-d forbid, drive the Shechinah out. Why would the Shechinah dwell where it isn’t respected?
Given the above, I suggest that as shuls open, they institute strict policies about talking and using cellphones in davening. Halacha forbids talking during tefillah. It disturbs others and is inherently disrespectful. One is effectively saying to the Divine Presence, “I know, Hashem, that this is Your house, but my desire to talk supersedes Your directive to maintain silent.”
Even more insidious than talking is using a phone to answer e-mails, text, or check websites. It may not disturb anyone, but it displays an absolute lack of derech eretz for a makom kadosh. (Would you read a comic book in shul?)
Moreover, a minyan is not simply 10 men davening together. Rather, a minyan transforms individual prayers into a sum that is greater than its parts. The tefillah of a minyan is qualitatively different than a private tefillah. Thus, if someone in a minyan uses a phone, he is damaging its integrity.
I’m therefore appealing to mispallelim to respect our holy spaces. The Shechinah is slowly welcoming us back; let’s not treat it with contempt.
I’m also asking our esteemed rabbanim to insist that their shuls maintain decorum and that cell phones be left outside the sanctuary or turned off. Indeed, phones should not even be used to daven in shul. Shuls have siddurim for that purpose!
Far Rockaway, NY
What’s Hashem Telling Us? (I)
First, there was a sudden upsurge in blatant anti-Semitism in Jewish neighborhoods. Then the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affected Orthodox Jewish communities. And now the riots and desecration of shuls and Jewish businesses.
For many Americans, Jews are fair game because they enjoy a comfortable slice of “white privilege” and must pay for the “crimes of America.” No one sees the Jew as his ally. Quite the contrary. It’s the only group that is seen as an enemy by all.
As the number of plagues raining down upon a bewildered Jewish community increases, a small voice can be heard amidst the vast noise of riots and hate rhetoric: “It’s not your problem. Solve your problems in your land. Come home. Don’t be swallowed up by strange fire.”
What’s Hashem Telling Us? (II)
The people who said the world will never return to what it was were right. I was hoping otherwise, but the message is getting stronger and stronger.
I feel like in a previous life, we said to Hashem, “Just test us with goodness and not with pogroms. Test us with peace and affluence. You’ll see, we won’t disappoint You!”
Hashem heard our tefillos and said, “Fine.” How have we responded?
If we ignore the messages Hashem is sending us and try to get back to “business as usual,” not only will we make Hashem cry, but we will make ourselves cry on a level never before seen by mankind. This prediction is in our holy Tanach. It’s not a secret.
If the messages are still coming, it means we still need to work on ourselves. We have to improve to such a degree that the nations of the world will be forced to say, “The Jewish people are the ones carrying forward G-d’s will. They are the ones elevating this world!”
Saying a few extra kapitalach of Tehillim is very nice, but the time for begging and pleading has passed. This is the time for action. Dramatic, life-altering, world-altering action!
It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life. In some way, you have to ask yourself, “What should we be doing to bring the world to the level of holiness we promised Hashem?”
Our number one responsibility should be to use all our kochos to help our brothers and sisters learn Torah and understand who they really are. Hashem has no nachas from fancy clothes or houses, but He does have nachas from our efforts to educate the tinokos shenishbos among us.
Blind Hatred for Trump
I agree with my many liberal friends who assert that Donald Trump is often crass and inarticulate. It’s sad, but true. But when I mention his accomplishments, I’m met with shrill insults instead of honest discussion.
I recently came up with a simple question I ask when I’m attacked: “Do you hate Donald Trump more than you love Israel?”
To my dismay, hatred of Trump often blinds people to factual realities – one of which is that the Republicans are good for Israel and the Democrats (of this generation) are not!
Rabbi Ivan Lerner
Silver Spring, MD
When Kids Throw You to the Curb (I)
Re “Parental Alienation” (feature story, May 29): Years ago, one of our children distanced herself from us after she married. There were signs of control by her spouse right away. Our phone calls were limited, and our visits were barely acceptable.
When the grandchildren were born, seeing them was not easy. Thus, grandchildren who bear the name of their great-grandparents hardly know us. The younger ones may never know us.
What leads a child to distance herself from her parents? People speak of the Stockholm syndrome or brainwashing to the point that the child believes so strongly that what she is being told is true that “perception becomes reality.”
At the onset of the estrangement, I was physically ill. But after a deep bout of soul-searching, I realized that neither I nor my spouse is to blame.
We have both been devoted parents. We stayed up nights taking care of our children, feeding them, and ascertaining that they had the best schooling possible. We set an example of derech eretz by taking care of our parents according to the letter of the law. Our children’s response? We took better care of our parents than we did of them.
This could not be further from the truth, but this is a generation that believes it has the prerogative to remove parents from their lives.
We used to keep photos of all our children and grandchildren in the house for when company arrived so we could save face. Today, we no longer sugarcoat the situation. We take care of each other and the children who are loyal and do not cause heartache and heartbreak. And we feel sorry for our other children because they will have to answer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for their decision.
To all the other parents experiencing this nisayon: Be strong and take care of yourselves. You did nothing wrong. Life is short; do not let this overcome us. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed. Do not hide the truth. Rise above it and take the high road.
When Kids Throw You to the Curb (II)
Thank you for your article on parental alienation. As the Founder of MASK and a longtime mental health advocate, I have a very sensitive spot in my heart for the cry of parents who are unable to reach their child.
Unfortunately, I can testify that the number of children who have stepped away from their parents is increasing dramatically. We are truly fortunate to have amongst us motivated women who have started a support group for such parents.
These parents are bewildered over their once-loving children having rejected them. They are tearfully asking for answers on how they could have lost contact with their dear children.
It seems that no one is immune. My heart truly breaks for each and every one of these mothers and fathers. It’s incredible to comprehend how they face their loss each day anew and then again as they navigate a world full of family occasions without their children. Their grief is huge.
I want the directors of the Broken Ties support group to know that I stand behind their devotion to these parents and will do whatever I can to help them get the proper referrals to professionals.
Till we get there, hang in there and hug tight!
Founder and Executive Director MASK
Breaking the Law Is Wrong (I)
Re “Frum Women Lead Movement to Defy Governor’s Cuomo’s Order” (news story, May 29): Given the disproportionately high rates of death and illness in many frum communities, it’s astounding that The Jewish Press has not condemned – and, in fact, seems to support – the some 300 people who have opened their businesses in defiance of New York state law.
Has the frum community not received enough negative publicity and caused enough chillul Hashem during this pandemic with “underground” yeshivot and minyanim?
There are many people whose parnassah is being affected; however, as Governor Cuomo has said, you can’t work if you’re dead. Our economy is opening in accordance with metrics and data.
Let’s teach our children respect for the law and government.
Breaking the Law Is Wrong (II)
I was raised with the idea that we follow the rules of whatever country we’re in, unless the laws ask us to violate halacha – in which case we either leave the country or work to change the law so we can observe halacha without causing a chillul Hashem.
I was also taught that parnassah comes from Hakadosh Baruch Hu. We don’t work on Shabbat even though it seems we would earn more that way. Hakadosh Baruch Hu decides the amount we earn.
We shouldn’t avoid doing hishtadlut or be lazy, but we should follow halacha, which includes following the law of the land.
When did this change? When did making money supercede following the law? When did causing non-Jews to think Jews defy American law – especially for making money – become a good idea?
The Times Never Fails
The New York Times has done it again with a full-page editorial opposing annexation of selected parts of Judea and Samaria, which incidentally have a Jewish majority.
This annexation is the price that the Palestinian Authority needs to pay for its refusal to enter peace negotiations, much less recognize a Jewish state. The claim that this annexation will violate international law is specious considering the territorial facts.
Abortion Is Ghastly
Jewish Press letter writer Nechamah Goldfarb argued the other week that all abortions should be legal because some are performed to save a mother’s life. That’s about as ludicrous as saying all murders should be legal because a few are committed due to insanity.
Of the million-plus babies in the womb terminated each year in the U.S. only a tiny, tiny percentage of them are terminated because of danger to the mother’s life, and almost all pro-life legislation makes exceptions for danger to the mother’s life, rape, and incest.
Goldberg says she is “horrified by pictures of abortion.” How then can she support this ghastly procedure? How can anyone who witnesses on ultrasound a baby being prodded by blunt instruments and squirming until it becomes lifeless and then cut into pieces to be extracted from the womb support abortion?
People come up with all sorts of excuses for legalizing abortion but don’t think of its effect on the baby whose whole life is ahead of it.
To me, the big shame of the whole abortion debate is that Catholics, evangelicals, and people of other religions are ardently pro-life while Jews are known around the world as ardent champions of terminating babies in the womb.
I hate to say it, but with their support for abortion, Jews make me ashamed to be Jewish.
Disgusted by Riots
Both Congregation Bnai Israel and Kehillas Yaakov – two long time mainstays of the Fairfax District in Los Angeles – were defaced with ugly, disgusting, and grotesque handiwork. A kosher market and several stores were also insanely looted. The whole situation is beyond disturbing and heartbreaking.
None of this would have happened had the National Guard been deployed on Shavuot. This city has no leadership. Showing tolerance of this nonsense only encourages it and weakens the police’s ability to control it.
Protesting is one thing, but looting, destruction, and criminal activity is another. The police killing is galling, but it’s only made worse by the dialogue around the protests and riots happening now. If you loot, riot, and destroy, you lose all moral credibility in my eyes to protest injustice.
These “protestors” destroying property and attacking police are bought-and-paid-for rioters. Thank George Soros and the Democratic left. Thank the Democratic mayors and governors for telling the police to stand down and give them space to riot.
This will not end well. We are close to a civil war. Someone is set on destroying the United States of America by any means necessary.
Brian J. Goldenfeld
Oak Park, CA
Are Coronavirus Data Reliable?
Last week, Stephen Moore (“The Lockdown Democrats”) wrote that “there is no scientific consensus on this terrible virus, and what was thought to be ‘scientific fact’ three weeks ago, is now in great question.”
Indeed, I believe even coronavirus data is questionable. Consider the following:
The United States, which has one of the best health care systems in the world and a population of 330 million, had 1.7 million cases and 100,000 deaths as of last week. By contrast India, a poor, third-world country with a backward health system and a population of 1.4 billion, had reported only 158,000 total cases and 4,500 deaths. Doesn’t that rate a raised eyebrow?
And then there’s China, which also has a population of about 1.4 billion. The coronavirus started there and raged for several months, yet China only reported a total 85,000 cases and 4,600 deaths.
Surely the coronavirus deaths in these two countries alone must be much higher than what’s reported in the “official” statistics.
And the number of deaths in the U.S. is likely inflated by deaths from causes other than the coronavirus. Nowadays, everyone over 50 who dies seems to die from the coronavirus or a “coronavirus-related condition” (whatever that is supposed to mean). No one now seems to die anymore of cancer, diabetes, heart trouble, infection, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s, old age, etc.
The purpose of this letter is not to try to add to one official total or subtract from another, but to point out the overall unreliability of most official statistics. Even well-meaning public and health officials who are trying to make serious life-and-death decisions on “the science” often have unreliable statistics to work with.
One death is a tragedy, many deaths are a catastrophe, but unnecessary deaths due to political expediency or political agendas are a crime.
Max Wisotsky, Ph.D
Last week’s Jewish Press has me writing in sheer admiration. Your editorial, “Investigating The Trump Investigators Is Not A Distraction,” should appear in every single publication in the nation.
Unfortunately, we know it won’t. So many of them eschew reality when skewering Trump. The president can do nothing right whereas Schumer, Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler are always on the mark, doing a great job for the nation.
The editorial was filled with common sense at its best. How, in the name of justice, can the administration, through its Justice Department, not investigate the attempted coup by the “deep state”? It’s critical that people be called to account for their misdeeds.
Another great piece in The Jewish Press was the “Lessons In Emunah” column. The author’s description of the devotions and celebrations at the Kotel were beautiful, moving and very meaningful. You almost felt like you were there.