Remembering Chava Willig
Dear Amihai Bannett:
I don’t know you, Amihai, but when I read your hesped to your loving Aunt Chava Willig Levy, I had the chills throughout. My name is Ruby Kaplan and I grew up with your remarkable aunt since we were both three years old. I experienced firsthand the journey that Chava Willig selflessly endured.
Let’s roll back to the time of the summer months in the Catskills. My parents, a”h, Rabbi and Mrs. Harold Hirschman, and your grandparents developed a strong relationship, having spent summer vacations together. I admit that I looked forward to going to the mountains to spend quality, fun time; it was a relief to get away from the summer heat without air conditioning at home and enjoy the open, cool breezes in Sullivan County with its vibrant family life of mutual bonding and open, welcoming bungalow front doors. Anyone who experienced the days of bungalow life remembers how, for example on activity night the same movie was watched by all under one roof in the “casino” and sporadic phone calls were received with a loud megaphone announcement to take the call in a remote phone booth akin to the Superman phone booth based on the “premises,” as they were called in those days. One understands the strong bonding between families that took place. In Yukelson’s bungalow colony in Swan Lake, we spent a particular summer that was part of the milestone occurrence that changed Chava’s life forever.
In the summer of 1955, before the Salk vaccine was widely available to combat polio, we were sitting around a colony barbeque event enjoying the evening when Chava started complaining about severe aches and pains. Rabbi and Mrs. Willig had no choice but to call an ambulance to come quickly. The sound of the ambulance sirens still vividly rings in my mind today. As a young child similar in age to Chavi, I was bewildered and upset. Where was my friend going? Days later, Chavi was brought back from the hospital, sitting in a wheelchair in a brace, now paralyzed from the polio virus.
Although she returned in her wheelchair, over time, we and the kids in the colony accepted and realized that Chavi was still the same Chavi. She always carried herself as the life of the party and was in tune to always singing and chair dancing while making all around her feel in a festive mood. She assumed her role stoically, and with the help and support of the beautiful, notable Willig family whom our family always adored, Chavi matured into a dynamic, accomplished woman.
One day years later, in reading the Ladies Homes Journal, which was the leisure magazine of the times, I saw an article Chavi wrote about her journey of success. Yes, I call it success. She became a truly accomplished woman and married the love of her life, with the nachas of beautiful children. Chavi assumed the role of becoming “independently” dependent, advocating for the disabled within a mainstream approach. Chavi defied the doctors’ prognosis that Chavi couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to function. She defied their prediction and persevered throughout her life and succeeded with flying colors. As an award-winning author, writer, speaker, international lecturer, influencer and role model, Chavi became a true inspiration to all on many levels.
To this day, I will always remember the incident that resonates for me with pride and admiration in how Chavi endured. In our recent pandemic during the shocking Covid years, the objections of the vaccine opponents were particularly poignant to me as I reflected about how Chavi was denied that precious opportunity for a vaccine and had to succumb to a virus before the polio vaccine, which was available only a few years after her contracting the disease.
Chavi never asked, “Why me?” She only asked Hashem, “Am I doing enough to make an impact as a survivor, grateful every day for the life Hashem gave me?”
Chavi, I remember and always will remember vividly who you are…and your adoring nephew’s hesped did you proud.
I highly recommend reading her memoir, A Life Not With Standing, in which her enthusiasm, spirituality and love for Judaism was portrayed throughout with a strong appreciation for the quality and meaning of life that was so dear to Chavi in spite of the challenges she continually faced.
Thank you Amihai for a job well done! Your doda, a”h, is kvelling in Shamayim.
Ruby (Hirschman) Kaplan
Democracy – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Jewish Press edition of May 5 included articles, opinions and editorials that dealt with the turmoil resulting from the intersection of biblical values with the consequences of unfettered democracy.
Democracy has been defined in many ways, its literal meaning from its Greek root is “rule of the citizens.” It has also been characterized as “mob rule” or as the next best thing in the absence of truth.
Torah Judaism explains that the ultimate purpose of man is to bring G-d-given biblical morality to the world under the kingship of the Almighty. Western democracy could provide a peaceful transition to a world population who willingly acknowledge the goodness of an earth steeped in knowledge of the Creator. Such a world would be free from the tyranny of evil governments that have enslaved and destroyed civilization after civilization for thousands of years.
The protests in Israel against the ruling coalition’s attempts at judicial reform posit that democracy would be compromised by laws that would inevitably reflect the Jewish values of the coalition, which include many “religious” factions. What the critics really mean is that since the majority of Jewish Israelis reject the secular vision of anti-religious factions in the Jewish state, the minority is no longer interested in democracy when it becomes someone else’s turn to rule.
Torah-true Judaism is beautiful – its path speaks for itself. Those who are not yet ready to grasp it can democratically vote for their preferences each Knesset election cycle. That is the function of democracy as a means to avoid civil war.
However, we should not minimize the dangers posed by democracy. Democracy can never be the end game for the Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael. Before creating the world, Hashem created the Torah, not democratic constitutional law. Democracy cannot function without its dependence on biblical distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad. We saw how democracy enabled Hitler to rise to power, and using that power he relabeled murder, justifying the slaughter of six million “subhuman” Jews.
In the United States, democracy has relabeled the murder of nine-month-old fetuses as a woman’s right to “her” body. An editorial in the May 5 Jewish Press warns of the “democratically” elected Biden government’s seizing of private property (money), by passing a mortgage redistribution policy that would force Americans to make extra mortgage payments to be credited to high-risk borrowers. Again in the May 5 edition, Martin Oliner praises Israeli democracy, citing George Orwell: “George Orwell wrote that ‘freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’ Both sides in Israel can express that right that truly makes us free.”
What measures are in place to protect Israeli democracy from degenerating into American democracy? George Orwell would certainly agree that the silencing of Tucker Carlson proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that American “democracy” no longer makes us free. If it can happen here, it can happen in an Israeli democracy in which a non-elected, mostly secular judicial branch of government is given oversight of the laws proposed by democratically elected Knesset lawmakers. It already happened in 1988 when the legally elected religious Kach party was undemocratically banned from seeking reelection.
The dream of two thousand years was not to create one more secular democracy. Rather, the hope is Isaiah’s vision: “For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem.”
Great Neck, N.Y.
A Better Way to Deal With Terrorists
In the not-to-distant past, when a terrorist committed a heinous crime in Israel, he would be arrested and go to court. Since Israel does not have the death sentence, the terrorist would be sentenced to life imprisonment until another terrorist would be successful in committing another terrorist act taking hostages. The Arabs would then demand that jailed terrorists be released from prison in an “exchange” for the Jews taken hostage. As much as I want to see Jewish lives saved, it honestly left me with a frustrating feeling.
Now, when a terrorist commits a heinous act in Israel, he is “neutralized” on the spot, either by police or citizens who are permitted to carry arms. I say “Bravo” to this new phenomenon. In the long run, it will only prove to be effective in saving Jewish lives.
Miami Beach, Fla.
Why Blame Winston Churchill?
In the article “Unfulfilled Expectations” (April 14), Gedaliah Borvick questions Sir Winston Churchill’s actual opinion and feelings about the Jewish people. He uses Michael Makovsky’s book Churchill’s Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft and makes many interesting statements. He states that “…he did not bomb the concentration camps or the rail lines leading to them…” and attempts to use this as proof of Churchill’s low opinion of Jews and his uncaring and possibly antisemitic attitude. I have an issue with this.
President Roosevelt didn’t bomb the camps or rail lines either. Would Borvick use this as proof that Roosevelt was an antisemite? There is also another very important issue brought out by documentary producer and director Ken Burns in his excellent show about the Holocaust.
Burns states that, given the physical layout of the camps, had they been bombed, these bombs would have killed untold thousands of the same people we were trying to save. Remember that the prison barracks, hospitals and workhouses were located very near the crematoriums. Burns also stated that yes, the rail lines could have been bombed, but they would have been repaired within a few hours. Keep in mind that many allied aircraft and crews would also have been lost, along with the prisoners. It was a much wiser decision to attack the Axis means of making war (munitions factories, fuel dumps, etc.) thereby hindering their ability to make war. Many people are under the misconception that the camps and rail lines could have been bombed and that would have been a “be all and end all” to save Jews, Slavs, Poles and all the other prisoners. It’s not that simple.
Dear Editor and Jewish Press Readers
Once again we would like to thank The Jewish Press and its many readers for helping to make a tremendous success of our “Erev-Pesach Felafel Campaign” for poor Israeli families.
Thanks to the generosity of Jewish Press readers, this year we were able to send 75 fine large Jewish families to our local falafel store for a falafel and French fries.
Truly The Jewish Press is unique in the impressive number of readers who not only read it, but also respond.
We truly thank you, The Jewish Press management and the generosity of your readership, for making this erev Pesach such a wonderful time for so many fine, frum, very poor, Jewish families.
With Sincere Appreciation,
Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein, Jerusalem
p.s. Any checks we received too late for the Felafel Fund will be put towards the Emergency Felafel Fund for similar poor families. Thank you.