Nefesh Stance Misrepresented
We are disappointed that Dr. Dovid Schwartz, a colleague and past presenter at Nefesh events, wrote such a misleading and inappropriate letter, making erroneous claims about Nefesh, such as: “Nefesh has now bought into the Modern view that nobody can change their sexual orientation” (Dec. 23).
Under the guidance of our mara d’asra, world-renowned posek HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Nefesh has been at the forefront of Torah and mental health these past thirty years. What topics we cover and which submissions are accepted are decisions made by Nefesh leadership.
Not accepting any specific submission for presentation at our conference does not reflect any policy statement. Nefesh has never issued a declaration on this topic, and to assign such a policy to Nefesh is motzei shem ra, a falsehood to discredit other frum Jews. We don’t make policies when it comes to halachic sha’alos; we ask our posek.
We have excellent and enlightening presentations at our upcoming conference, January 4-8, 2023, in Parsippany, New Jersey Feel free to peruse our offerings at www.Nefesh.org.
Rabbi Barry Holzer, M.D.
President, Nefesh International
Modern Orthodoxy and Secular Culture
Permit me to add to the recent discussions about Modern Orthodoxy in your paper. When Modern Orthodox Jews engage with the outside world, they can do so in two ways:
They can grapple with the big intellectual questions such as: In science: How do we understand the theory of evolution? Is genetic engineering permitted? How does Torah relate to the scientific method?
In literature: What insights into human nature did famous authors like Shakespeare and Mark Twain have and can we find these insights in the Torah?
In history: What lessons does world history hold for Torah Jews and how can we make use of them?
In current affairs: What does the Torah say about the various issues that are being hotly debated? What does the Torah consider sufficient cause to go to war?
Then there is a second way of engaging with the outside world, and that is by experiencing popular culture – Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Britney Spears and Taylor Swift. Marvel and Star Trek and Star Wars and the latest Avatar movie. Netflix and Hulu and Spotify. The list goes on.
The Modern Orthodox must be wary of this second way. It doesn’t help us become better Jews or better human beings. Besides the halachic issues it poses, over-involvement in popular culture is a distraction from Torah and corrodes our yiras Shamayim.
I like relaxing as much as anyone else. I enjoy light entertainment, I have an eclectic music collection, I go to concerts and ballgames, and I’m a Twitter user. I don’t think there is anything wrong with casual enjoyment of popular culture. The problem begins when we get really into it. Our lives should revolve around Torah, avodah, and gemilas chasadim. When we make popular culture the center of our attention, that’s when we get into trouble and weaken our commitment to Judaism.
As Modern Orthodox Jews, let us indeed engage the outside world. But we need to avoid getting too involved in popular culture. Instead, let’s intensify our commitment to limud HaTorah, attending new shiurim and taking on more sedarim. If we do that, we will be ensuring the health of Modern Orthodoxy for a long time to come.
Michael H. Klein
Fair and Balanced
Yasher koach to The Jewish Press for printing Rabbis Michael Broyde’s and Tzvi Seninsky’s responses to Ben Shapiro’s article on Modern Orthodoxy.
Exposing readers and listeners to both sides of an argument is normative Judaism in the tradition of Beit Hillel and Beit Shamai. It also represents the best of good journalism. As a Modern Orthodox rabbi, I appreciate the balance and fairness that The Jewish Press achieved regarding this issue. I (and others like me) surely look forward to reading more treatments like this in The Jewish Press.
Dr. Eugene Korn
The Main Point
There’s a popular expression in the world of Torah, “Ikar Chasar Min Hasefer.” Loosely translated, it means that the main point was omitted. For all the recent insightful articles on Modern Orthodoxy, the term wasn’t clearly defined. For some, Modern Orthodoxy is associated with YU, but from my experience, that brand of Judaism is vibrant and fully observant in all the mitzvos. If the authors such as Ben Shapiro and Avi Ciment are referring to those who come to shul once a week and only come to socialize at the Kiddush club, I’m not sure they can be called Orthodox. So again, we need clarification.
I would like to single out Rabbi Broyde for encomiums. We live in a world where compromise is necessary, and that’s in all areas. For decades, Shelly Silver, OBM, was in power, and he consistently supported controversial issues like same-sex marriage. As a fellow Lower East Sider, I can assert that he didn’t believe in such legislation, but it was a matter of pragmatism. Yes, the zealots can rail that our allegiance must be to Hashem, but at the end of the day, we live in the real world. Therefore, we must work within the system and we must not ostracize those whose religious performance doesn’t presently meet our standards.
Dr. Yitzchak Stern
Appreciating Marc Gronich’s Albany Beat
Congratulations to Jewish Press “Albany Beat” reporter Marc Gronich on seven years writing for The Jewish Press and his 44th year covering government and politics (December 28). Many of your readers care about the actions and activities of both our elected officials and state government agencies. Their budgetary, legislative and regulatory actions directly impact both our individual civil and our economic liberties. There is a great burden on those few brave remaining independent players including Gronich, along with City & State Magazine, Legislative Gazette, PBS “New York Now”, and the Albany Times Union. Only a handful of daily newspapers including the New York Times, Newsday, NY Daily News and NY Post maintain a presence in Albany to hold the governor, state comptroller, attorney general and members of the Legislature, along with various state agencies accountable.
The handful of brave reporters is outnumbered by the press spokespersons for elected officials, government and quasi-government state agencies, along with hundreds of special interest lobbyist groups.
There are still many taxpayer citizens who have a continued thirst for news from our state capital. I look forward to Marc Gronich’s future stories in years to come.
Great Neck, N.Y.
Women Still Exist Here
The letter from author Ann Koffsky (Dec. 23) was right on point. And The Jewish Press is to be congratulated for not participating in the meaningless censorship of women in pictures as, for example, several weeks ago when you printed the basketball championship photos of the Boys and Girls teams of an Orthodox Jewish High School.
The baseless censorship is now so severe that even women’s names are deleted from numerous public messages and announcements. Indeed, in the very near future we can expect the following description of who is buried in the Meoras HaMachpaila: Adam and his wife; Avraham and his wife; Yitzchak and his wife, Yaakov and his wife.
Conservative Win Boosts Security
Israelis voted for a conservative government to be headed by Bibi Netanyahu, and a key reason was security. The following statistics from the Jerusalem Post help explain why:
“According to the IDF’s 2022 year-end report, released Thursday, 31 Israelis were killed in Palestinian terror attacks in 2022, a majority being civilians, compared to four in 2021, three in 2020, and five in 2019.
“285 shooting incidents were recorded in the West Bank in 2022, up from 61 in 2021, 31 in 2020 and 19 in 2019.
“There were 1,268 firebomb incidents, up from 1,022 in 2021, 751 in 2020 and 839 in 2019.
“There were 7,589 rock-throwing incidents, up from 5,532 in 2021, 4,002 in 2020 and 3,805 in 2019.”
These results give hope that the violence and lawlessness now gripping America will bring more conservatives into Congress, state legislatures, and municipal governments. This will bring the end of the “woke” social experiments which have caused so many deaths, loss of property, and insecurity in so many American cities run by liberals and left-wingers.
Action Needed, Not Virtue Signaling
It’s encouraging that top New York City and State officials appeared at the recent Orthodox Union event against antisemitism, but such virtue signaling must be followed by substantive actions toward quelling nearly daily attacks on Jews. But that flies in the face of a criminal justice system that is currently overwhelmed and dysfunctional. As rogue D.A.s refuse to prosecute many crimes, police don’t bother to pursue their perpetrators. Convenience for prosecutors overrides concern for justice for victims. Plea bargains to lower charges are commonplace, sentences light, and, even those are rarely fully served. Under the No Cash Bail law, criminals, if arrested, are arraigned and then quickly sent back onto the street to commit more crimes.
The ‘Broken Windows’ philosophy of policing made city streets safe again while “woke” political interference has resulted in those streets now figuratively strewn with glass. It must not be mentioned that “favored” groups are mostly the assailants, and the victims, the “disfavored” Jews. “Equity” demands that there mustn’t be any racial disparities in criminality or incarceration statistics. Indeed, the jails should be emptied, and the police “defunded.”
It’s absolutely scandalous that, to date, no perpetrator of violence against identifiable Jews has served any jail time. Such a clear message of impunity can only encourage more and worse crimes. There must be no more plea deals for those attacks. The most serious offenders must receive a maximum sentence, as a clear warning to others. Laws currently on the books need be reviewed and strengthened. It would be highly desirable to have separate police units focused exclusively on stopping street crime, and special D.A. offices devoted solely to prosecuting it. street crime, Whatever the measures to be taken, there must be unwavering attention towards combating the current intolerable situation.
Richard D. Wilkins
Not All Discrimination is Equal
The announcement that the Biden administration is establishing an inter-agency group to coordinate U.S. government efforts “to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination,” shows that the White House is interested in more than a ceremonial approach to address antisemitism. That’s a good thing.
But the combination of so many different forms of bias – antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black hatred, anti-Asian hatred, homophobia, transphobia and more – into a homogenized melting pot risks not adequately dealing with the complexities of bias against any minority. The announced approach smacks of trying to please everyone. We are concerned that it will result in a response that will please no one.
Each minority community that is a proven target of the angry, resentful and mentally unbalanced hate-mongers who are pumped up by the steady drip of social-media content and loose gun laws is different. Each is deserving of individualized attention and the development of a carefully tailored approach and response. Jews are no exception.
The attacks on Jews continue, with no end in sight. From spray-painted swastikas and antisemitic slogans to taunts to heckling and assaults on Jewish children and adults on the streets of our neighborhoods, each disturbing event triggers the Jewish trauma of living in a community that is not safe. While we are pleased by the rise in government dollars earmarked for communal security and the increasing coordination between law enforcement and the security monitoring arms of Jewish communities, we worry that much more is needed.
Any plan of action must be based on accurate information. But it now appears that those responsible for keeping track of hate activity haven’t been able to gather reliable numbers. The FBI, for example, has been criticized for publishing incomplete data on hate crimes. Thus, the FBI reported a drop in antisemitic acts in 2021, while the ADL reported an alarming rise in such activities during the same time.
It turns out that the reason for the disconnect is simple. The FBI relies on voluntary reports from law enforcement agencies. But several major law enforcement regions, including Los Angeles County, New York, Miami and Chicago, did not submit data for 2021. It is therefore no surprise that without reports from the very areas where most American Jews live, the FBI compilations cannot be accurate.
Government officials have explained that many states and law enforcement agencies failed to report on bias and hate activity properly or at all after a shift to a new reporting system. That means that the problem of antisemitism is worse than officials thought and probably closer to what we feel in our bones. And the same is almost certainly true for other minorities who are suffering from rising bias and attacks.
The bureaucratic blunder is disturbing. Even with the best of intentions, government cannot solve a problem that it doesn’t fully understand. And with the White House now proposing to deal with all forms of bias generically rather than with a deliberate focus on each minority community that is being targeted, we worry that the individualized and singular needs of each minority community, including the Jewish one, will not be addressed sufficiently. That would not be good for anyone.
Oak Park, Calif.