Just Say No
Mrs. Davis asserts in her essay (Parenting, Smartphone Addiction And The Courage To Say ‘No,’” Sept 1) that parents should have the courage to say “no” regarding smartphone use and to set rules, but later qualifies to do it “with proper discussion” and “give and take.” Parents shouldn’t need to have a discussion or collaborate with their 14- and 15-year-old children about installing a filter on their phones (paid by the parents) or setting a curfew (living under their roofs). “No” doesn’t need an explanation and children and teenagers don’t deserve one, although a rationale can be given for instructional benefit.
Doing Something Right
I appreciate The Jewish Press publishing my Tisha b’Av lament and your reader, Mr. Walfish, in his letter to the editor last week, for taking up my challenge to imagine a world without gun deaths (25,000 as of August 3 in the U.S. alone this year).
As much as I wish that if we all just davened hard enough on Rosh Hashana, the evils of gun deaths or any other deaths (cancer, heart disease, etc.) would disappear, I was taught that the shofar is a call to action, and that “shana” is etymologically linked to the notion of change; our actions can bring about real change. It was in this vein that I commended the government of El Salvador (in particular) who, when seeing their homicide rates approach that of major cities like Baltimore and Chicago, decided to end gang violence, slashing the homicide rate to a tiny fraction of New York’s and saving countless lives in the process.
A happy byproduct of El Salvador’s crackdown on violence is that individuals and groups like the one I led from YU earlier this year can walk downtown by day or night without concern. The huge increase in tourism has been a boon for their economy and paved the way for exciting programs like PesachCentral.com, designed to enable guests to forge a meaningful connection (and provide much-needed parnassah) to the incredibly warm indigenous kehilla that is hosting it.
May the year ahead be sweetened by our actions and our giving a “kol” to those less fortunate.
Rabbi Daniel Coleman
New York, N.Y.
I appreciate Avi Goldstein’s letter (Sept. 1) commenting on my July 27 article about the summer Jewish community of Hunter, N.Y., in perspective.
I just feel obliged to offer one clarification. With the perspective of our family’s presence in Hunter in the course of many decades, and upon confirmation with some relatives in this category, please permit me to assure your readers that at least in the years following the Holocaust, the frum members of the summer community generally arranged for separate swimming for men and for women in a secluded area of the town’s lake, even if we “shared” the same large lake with those who did not make such arrangements.
Again, Avi’s letter was an absolute treat for all summer Hunter vacationers. Thank you for publishing it.
Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel
Kew Gardens and
long-time summer resident of Hunter, N.Y.
The Sins of Donald Trump
Regarding your recent editorial “What Part Don’t They Get?” (Sept 8), in which you appear to defend our former president against all the criminal acts that he is charged with, ignoring all the facts of the case but joining the popular Republican chorus claiming “witch hunts.”
Your editorials are helping to normalize his behavior. While I also have major concerns with Biden and his administration, and especially with the progressive wing of the Democratic party, which seems at times to have taken it over, I still am puzzled by the latest polls that show both Trump and Biden running neck to neck. How can the majority of people still support Trump (rather than many other more competent and less controversial Republican candidates) knowing all the criminal activities that he is charged with, many of which we have seen and heard with our own eyes and ears.
We heard the recorded phone conversation between him and the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to help him “find 11,780 votes” that will help overturn the state’s election results in his favor. Is this normal?
We saw the riots that took place on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol with a gang of Neo-Nazis wearing T-shirts bearing the name of Camp Auschwitz, and white supremacists carrying Confederate flags fighting with police forcing their way inside the building and threatening the lives of all the members of Congress who were inside – especially that of Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Pelosi, whom they were trying to actually kill. And despite this horrendous scene, it took our former president three entire hours to finally tell the rioters to go home, while also adding how much he loves them for their “patriotism,” and doing nothing to help protect his own vice president as well as all members of Congress during that time. Is this normal?
He also helped spread all his false lies about the stolen election, never willing to concede despite every court in the country (including the Supreme Court) refuting his claims, which led to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Is this normal? This is something that should never be ignored, and how can anyone be willing to support him again knowing that he will never be willing to concede defeat should he again lose.
He also risked the security of our country by not only keeping very sensitive documents in a non-secured place in his Florida home, but even refusing to then turn them over to the proper authorities when it was then discovered. Is this normal?
All of these charges against him are unprecedented; when Biden and Pence were also charged with having sensitive documents stored in an unsecured place, they were at least willing, unlike Trump, to immediately cooperate with the authorities at that point.
Yes, you may admire Trump for some of his policies, especially related to Israel, but you cannot ignore his very corrupt character and behaviors that in the long run does not help Israel either, by also aligning ourselves with such corruption.
I believe it behooves The Jewish Press to finally distance itself from Trump and stop treating him like a poor abused victim – a role that he seems to relish. Instead, start embracing other presidential conservative candidates who are also very pro-Israel but without his criminal baggage and with much more integrity, such as Nikki Haley, a former UN Ambassador. In fact, it should be well publicized that Nikki Haley’s campaign staff includes her communications director Nechama Soloveichik of the illustrious Soloveichik family, which alone should compel all frum Jews to sooner consider her for U.S. president than Donald Trump.
Forgiveness Begins at the Grocery Store
For as long as I have been a shopper, I have been troubled by the problem of consumers being mistakenly overcharged (or undercharged) at store cash registers. This issue has become more pronounced and localized over the past 30 years as kosher food stores have grown exponentially, both in physical size and in the number and range of available products. (This issue is unique to food stores, due to the sheer volume of shoppers and the volume of units being bought.)
As an example of this growth, in the 1970s, my local grocer dedicated an area at the back of the store to Pesach products. I do not exaggerate when I say that I was able to stand at the center of that room and reach almost every “dry” Pesach product available. (At the time, many small groceries did not carry meat, fruit or vegetables, and dairy had its own, refrigerated section, but most other products were at arm’s length.) Today, just the frozen selections alone can take up several aisles in the Pesach section.
And here is the point. As the number of products (year-round and for Pesach) has multiplied, so has the potential for errors in pricing. There is no doubt that the mistakes, whether on the part of the merchant or the consumer, are unintentional, but they do occur, and they occur frequently.
As an example, I recently bought nectarines at one of our supermarkets. There were two categories of nectarines: one selling for $5.99 a pound and the other for $2.99 (the numbers are illustrative). When I went to the register, my $2.99 nectarines were charged at $5.99. I noted this to the checkout person, and it turned out that both types of nectarines had been stickered with the same product code. Fortunately, I had been observing as my purchases were rung up, but what if I had not? There are doubtless instances when customers don’t notice such errors.
Another mistake, this one on the consumer’s part, can occur when two grades of the same fruit are placed near one another. These commonly become mixed, and when the consumer picks peaches from the less-expensive bin, it is conceivable that she will mistakenly bag some more expensive ones as well. If the cheaper barcode is rung up, the purchaser will have underpaid.
Decades ago, when shopping at Waldbaum’s (obm!), I kept a running tally and found that there was an error (usually overcharging on Waldbaum’s part) with approximately three percent of purchases. If the average buyer brought thirty items to the register (a likely scenario), statistically an error was almost certain to occur with each checkout.
Conversely, I have periodically been undercharged for an item, usually when a cashier “looks up” an item and enters the wrong one. Of course, if I notice the mistake, I insist that it be corrected, but it is likely that I don’t catch every error. (I would much rather overpay than underpay.) There are other scenarios as well wherein an item is overcharged or undercharged.
There is not, in my view, an easy resolution to this problem. Store managers are human and consumers are human, and humans make mistakes. Therefore, I believe that both consumers and store operators should resolve, before every Rosh Hashana, to forgive any unintentional errors that have occurred in transactions that were conducted over the previous year.
I conclude with a heartfelt prayer that by forgiving these errors, we will incur favor in Hashem’s eyes, and that, in turn, He will forgive our transgressions and grant us all a k’siva v’chasima tova and a wonderful 5784.
Far Rockaway, N.Y.
When it comes to the migrant crisis with 110,000 asylum seekers coming to NYC, some of our leading elected officials remind me of Sergeant Schultz from the TV sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, who said “I see nothing, nothing.” Never shy around a microphone or camera, Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gilllibrand and Democratic House Minority Leader Hakim Jeffries never held a press conference to hold President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris (Biden’s appointed border czar) or Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas accountable. It is pure fantasy on their part to continue claiming that the southern border with Mexico is secure. The situation is growing even worse as thousands more are now also illegally crossing our Canadian northern border. In contrast, NYC Mayor Eric Adams is a profile in courage. He recently said dealing with this will cost NYC $12 billion over the next three years and could have a long-term devastating impact on the Big Apple.
Great Neck, N.Y.
Biden’s Wrong Turn On Gas & Petroleum
On Thursday, September 7, 2023 President Biden cancelled seven leases to drill for petroleum in Northern Alaska. These leases were previously approved by President Trump. The severe economic impact will be felt by many in Alaska, especially the poor indigenous people of the north. America’s national security will also suffer as our reliance on imported oil increases. In short, this decision may be as counterproductive as the order to stop work on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Biden ordered on his first day as president.
What is also very illogical is Biden’s response to the very unpopular increase in gasoline and diesel fuels. Biden went begging Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to help us out. They refused and, in fact, recently cut their oil production. (This I believe is because of their disappointment in the way Biden handled the Iranian nuclear weapon development, ignoring Iranian continued sponsoring of terrorism worldwide, and significantly, Iran’s direct threat to the Saudi regime by destabilizing neighboring Yemen.)
The other misguided approach Biden took was to permit Venezuelan petroleum imports to America. If global warming and environmental concerns are really driving the president’s policy to reduce American petroleum production, why import oil from a nation with a horrible record of environmental destruction? Clearly, American environmental standards for petroleum production are among the best in the world and vastly better than those of Venezuela.
In conclusion, I see no rational reason why the president has hurt American industry, caused the widespread pain of inflation, and helped nations like Iran and Venezuela that are far from friendly.