To the Orthodox Rabbis, Community and Organizational Leaders, and especially School Administrators
Perhaps the media hasn’t made the fact clear enough: Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested by Russian authorities, is Jewish. This means that a Jew is being held hostage, which means the concept of pidyon shvuyim has been triggered: it is a mitzvah to help bring about the release of a fellow Jew who is wrongly imprisoned.
I remember how proud I was nearly 40 years ago to be a member of our community when we led the way by visibly demonstrating for Soviet Jews who were not being allowed to emigrate.
On March 29, nearly a month ago, Gershkovich was arrested, clearly on false pretenses, and yet our silence on this issue has been deafening.
Why hasn’t there been a barrage of statements by leaders, advertisements, letters to the editors, or hashtag movements in print or social media? Why has there been no public outcry, no demonstrations or educational assemblies by our Orthodox schools and communities to bring awareness and support for Evan? Why has there been no letter writing/emailing/phone calling campaigns to public officials and members of Congress?
Is it because he is not observant? Does that/should that matter? Shouldn’t we practice the mantra that we preach to our own insular communities so often: “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh BaZeh – All Jews are responsible for each other?”
Not only is it a mitzvah for our communities to actively engage; doing so would be a tremendous Kiddush Hashem and a huge show of solidarity by the Orthodox community to demonstrate that we care about ALL Jews. To stand by and do nothing reflects the opposite. What lesson does our inaction teach our kids? And, in this era of rampant antisemitism, what message are we conveying to the world about our values as an Orthodox community when we show that we don’t care about a fellow Jew?
Is it B’seder to Have a Vegan Seder?
Regarding the article “Is it Proper?” (April 7), a vegetarian, vegan seder could be a problem if the host regards veganism or vegetarianism as required behavior.
Of course, even to satisfy an obligation to eat meat, one only needs to eat a kezayis. Unless one has a serious physiological reaction to meat (making one a choleh and thus exempt), the small amount is required.
And thus, one is also required to put oneself off limits from dairy products for the required waiting time. That would suggest one is not permitted to orient oneself to “prefer” dairy for the entirety of Yom Tov to fulfill simchas Yom Tov. One is required to orient oneself to have preferences that align with what is handed down as the proper way to have simcha. One who has not done that probably needs to do a cheshbon nefesh [serious self-accounting].
West Orange, N.J
Due to an editing omission, we failed to note that Daniel Hagler’s letter last week was also responding to this article.
From the Past to the Future
Regarding “Yom HaShoah: Not Only About the Past” (www.JewishPress.com): As a speaker and author on Holocaust education who is the child of survivors, I am passionate about preserving the memory of the Holocaust – but not in the way it’s been done in the past.
The Holocaust can no longer be about the brutality, the murder of six million, the murder of 1.5 million children, and all the horrors that go along with it. We need to charter that into education about love, about caring. If we take from it only the horrors and the murders, that will destroy the relevance of the Holocaust.
The younger generation of Jews does not wish to become mired in the pain of the past. We want to take these lessons and apply them to a more positive, generous future of Jewish being. When the personal touch of survivors dies out, the emphasis on courage and faith in the face of death, not the affliction of being singled out for being Jewish, is the lesson that needs to be passed on.
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
We Need Action, Not More Studies
With great fanfare, according to an April 7 article in The Jewish Press (“New York and New Jersey Jewish Groups Form New Partnerships to Protect Communities”) the stated purpose of these groups is to “communicate, share intelligence, and work in coordination with law enforcement.” While this effort may salve the conscience of those involved and give the appearance of doing something useful, I believe that at this stage of the game, this effort is of little value. This type of response has not worked in the past and will not work now.
When one reads today in any number of media reports, and by any metric – Federal, state, city, and Jewish organizations’ accounts – there has been an enormous resurgence of antisemitism.
Whether the figure is 48.6 percent or 59.8 percent or 72.9 percent is of little consequence. All reports show a great increase, and putting in efforts to further refine the decimal place serves no useful purpose. Is there some sort of threshold below which antisemitism is acceptable, and which must be exceeded before we take any action?
When Jewish students on campus are afraid to wear a kippah or Magen David or to support Israel for fear of being targeted, it is too late for more studies.
When Chassidim in Williamsburg are afraid to walk the streets for fear of being targeted, it is too late for more studies.
When obviously Jewish-garbed mothers pushing baby carriages in heavily Jewish neighborhoods have to look carefully to make sure no Jew-hater is trying to ram into them with his car, it is too late for more studies.
When shuls, synagogues, and Jewish centers have to have security committees, armed guards, coded entrance locks, and bullet-proof doors and windows, for fear of being targeted, it is too late for more studies.
All reports show the level of antisemitism today is very high. Let’s accept that fact and move on to taking concrete action, not conducting more studies.
What is needed is a much greater degree of protest and demonstrations, even with the possible threat of violence against us (which we see today anyway), to counter our very determined and organized adversaries who resort to these very measures themselves. Fight fire with fire. This lesson was learned by many of our other “minorities” in the past and has actually produced real progress. The Women’s Rights movement, Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and 2000s, gay rights and Pride movements, all gained traction through massive demonstrations at the cost of violence and even bloodshed, not through issuing memos or appeals to reason or trying to build bridges with our implacable enemies.
This is where a new “Jewish Rights” movement may gain some real respect and consideration from our enemies, however grudgingly, but with substantial results. This is where our leadership and members need to put their efforts, not in memos or pronouncements, but in the streets, to start making real progress.
Highland Park, N.J.
The Pentagon recently reviewed a couple of UFO (now called UAP) incidents reported by military personnel, and has over 600 incidents in the process of being reviewed. Some people think they may be aliens from another planet. But this makes little sense. The Hubble telescope, currently in orbit around earth, can see galaxies billions of light-years away. With all the UFOs we’ve been seeing for decades, I expected Hubble to pick up bumper-to-bumper UFO traffic between earth and some distant galaxy. But there’s no such traffic. Not even light traffic!