Letters to the Editor August 21, 2023: Self-contradiction

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

 Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)


As I read “Alienating Israelis from Judaism” (August 20), I recalled quite clearly a discussion from long ago, that one of my high school teachers had with our class. To get directly to his point, the bottom line is that when it comes to religion and politics, “never the twain shall meet.”

There is no place in religion for politics, nor is there any place in politics for religion. In other words, in Talmudic terms, the expression “a religious political party” is a “self-contradiction.”

May the day come soon when the Israeli world at large comes to realize this.


Tzur Yitzhak

“Alienating Israelis from Judaism” is a powerful article by Daniel Goldman about the reasons for the growing alienation of Israelis, both secular and some of the moderate religious, from Orthodox Judaism.

I used to wonder when and why I personally became so strongly alienated by Jewish rituals. I think I recently nailed it down. As a child of some 10-12  years of age, I lived with my parents and older brother in Calgary.

My grandfather on my fathers side, Isaiah, lived in Winnipeg, and was the chief rabbi of Western Canada for many years. He visited us one day. He so mistrusted the Calgary rabbinical organizations, including those responsible for supervising kashrut, that he demanded to be driven out to a nearby farm where he milked the cow himself. I believe that this extreme, obsessive behavior had a profound impact on my young mind.

Since then I have refused to have anything to do with the ritual practices of Judaism. I am truly alienated from the Jewish extremists. The entire Orthodox, not-so-secret cabal frightens me. Unfortunately for Israel’s future, they are gaining electoral power and have not the required wisdom or character for compromise.

They want a theocracy and they will do anything to achieve it. What we are seeing now is only the opening rounds of the battle. Please, somebody, help us, for they know not what dangers lie ahead.



Seemingly unconnected

Effective fundraising without compromising impact” by Adam Milstein and Elena Yacov (August 18), regarding the fundraising paradigm of American Jewish nonprofit organizations, was well-received by this reader, whose pre-aliyah career as an attorney, college professor, and board member of a tax-exempt organization included many occasions to teach, advise, and write about the US nonprofit sector (including articles specifically addressing tax-exempts in the Jewish community).

I have seen firsthand how the current fundraising dynamics described by Mr. Milstein and Ms. Yacov contribute to mission creep, complicate operations, and discourage cooperation among nonprofits who would stand to benefit from the synergies obtainable through teaming together.

In addition to encouraging cooperation among Jewish community tax-exempts, there also is a need to protect the legitimate nonprofits from the bad actors who sully the good names of all in the nonprofit sector.

That nonprofit organizations having seemingly unconnected (or even conflicting) mission objectives can work in conjunction with one another was demonstrated only two days before this article was printed in the Post. The Open Markets Institute, an organization whose mission is to address threats to society from monopolization, teamed up with the Authors Guild and the American Booksellers Association in jointly writing a letter urging the US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to take action to rein in Amazon’s dominance in the book market.

The prospect of further collaborations among Jewish nonprofits holds great promise for enhancing their collective impact.


Petah Tikva

Very congenial

Reading “Stop transport discrimination” (editorial, August 16), I was reminded of my experience in Monsey, New York many decades ago when there was a bus with a curtain down the middle aisle, men and women on separate sides. It was a private bus originating in a hassidic community, among many other public buses accessible to all. It had its own routes and schedules which made it more convenient at times than other companies.

I sometimes used it when traveling directly to mid-Manhattan, and one year in particular when I was taking a university course ending late at night, I was a regular rider embarking right next to the college in Manhattan and disembarking a block from my home in Monsey. Needless to say it was a great convenience to me to have that  option, and I gave little thought at the time to the separation down the center.

I was aware also that at times husbands and wives would sit together, usually right at the front of the bus. It seemed very congenial at the time and certainly a far cry from women having to board at the back entrance of the bus as described as happening today.

It was several years later, that I heard a lawsuit claiming discrimination had been brought against the bus company. The legal basis for the suit, I believe, claimed discrimination under the 14th Amendment, and since the federal government had the right to regulate interstate transportation (the bus passed through New Jersey on the way to Manhattan), the claimant won.

It marked the end of the “curtain down the middle” buses, although I think there was still a minyan bus in the mornings. By that time, I had stopped using the bus, but I remember it now as a symbol of a different time and place.


Beit Shemesh

Haredi religious fanaticism should be a national security issue for Israel. This month, the highly influential New York Times, read by millions, published a shocking article on the growing denigration of women in Israel by haredim. This comes after recent extensive coverage by the Times of hassidim in Greater New York rejecting secular education in yeshivas, along with other, similar reporting regarding haredim in Israel.

Long gone are the 1950s and 1960s when the small, plucky democracy of Israel captivated America. The bestseller Exodus, the film of the same name, and Israel’s stunning victory in the Six Day War of 1967 cemented America’s affection for Israel. Today, the noble image of Israel in America has dramatically diminished.

Since haredim have a staggering birth rate, in several decades they will form most of Israeli Jews. If the religious extremism continues, and even increases, not only will it alienate American non-Orthodox Jews, who are major supporters of and donors to Israel, but it will also estrange America whose financial and diplomatic aid to the country is crucial. It is absurd that the haredim who contribute relatively little to Israel’s economy and military should also destroy its vital bond with America.

Equal women’s rights are the touchstone of all Western democracies. In leftist circles in the US, many already demonize Israel, ridiculously, as an apartheid country. Why compound this ostracizing of Israel by allowing it now to be called misogynist?

Mainstream Israeli Jews should know that the American public will not tolerate a Jewish Taliban state and will demand that its government cut ties with it.



Pretty sick

Sadly, we have not yet reached a point where we say enough is enough (“IDF searches for terrorist who killed father and son in Huwara,” August 20). Netanyahu’s policy of continued concessions to our enemies is not working and never has. What I don’t understand is how Israelis fail to see that a prime minister whose obsession with remaining prime minister at all costs is failing the people and the country.

The area of Route 60 where the latest murder took place has been a point of contention since it opened for both Arab and Jewish travel and those who were against this opening have unfortunately been proved right too many times, and still it continues because the first priority has become – do not get up the ire of our enemies; pretty sick.

The report says that security forces took up a position in the town and were braced throughout the West Bank for revenge attacks from Jewish extremists. If the IDF did its job and destroyed our enemies, there would be no need for so-called Jewish extremists, a term that is disparaging and wrong and only encourages our enemies.

I would suggest that the government put all its energies into making our sovereign Jewish state safe for the Jewish people, to whom it was given to build and settle. This is the only country we have as against over 20 Arab sovereign states and I don’t hear anyone trying to make them give up to their enemies.



Not too tranquil river

Herb Keinon’s “Needed badly: Reliable Information” (August 16) points out that decisions need to be based on sound, relevant, and accurate information. So far, the degree to which the government’s decisions to eviscerate the Supreme Court has impacted the economy, our societal well-being, and our ability to defend against external enemies is unclear.

Yet, burying our heads in the sand is not a solution; for instance, refusing to hear updates from the security chiefs, or minimizing the potential effect of the reform on the rule of law. I see things this way: Our prime minister, finance minister, etc. are on a raft floating down a not too tranquil river. Others shout from the banks: “Waterfall ahead!” They respond: “Looks okay for now.”

Sometimes in life, it’s not where you are, but where you’re going, and that is what worries me.



Put the record straight

Neutralizing Netanyahu and protecting Democracy” by Yitz Greenberg (August 15) is nothing short of a vicious diatribe against everything associated with Israel’s longest serving prime minister. It is so replete with platitudinous inexactitudes that it is difficult to know where to start and wade through the hysterical rhetoric and to put the record straight.

Let us just concentrate on a few “truths” which your revered, liberal, modern-Orthodox rabbinical correspondent seems to have overlooked.

All the items comprising the judicial reform proposals are items which already exist in almost all Western democracies, and particularly in the United States:

  1. The “reasonableness clause” was abandoned in the US many years ago and just does not exist as a judicial justification in England and, I imagine, in the rest of Europe, since it leads  to judicial uncertainty and chaos.
  2. Federal judges are appointed politically in the US.
  3. Legal advisers are appointed by the people whom they advise, hand-picked for their suitability in the eyes of the minister, and not some overpaid clerk whose appointment reflected the agenda of ministers long gone.
  4. The “override” proposal represents democracy in its true form, in that it prevents the imposition of the will (agenda) of a few albeit eminent persons upon the will of the people, through their elected representatives.

At this moment in time, Netanyahu is the only real leader that is apparent on the political scene. You may or may not like his methods, or his predilection for champagne or his wife or his son, or the color of his hair – but the fact is that he is a “leader” and a majority of the people of Israel feel comfortable and “safe” knowing that he is at the helm.

I wonder how many people would feel that comfortable if Lapid, whose only claim to fame is his reality-show past, or Gantz, whose policies, speeches, and actions are orchestrated by his public relations team, would be in charge of the steering wheel?



Destroying forests

Some headlines can be misleading and even harmful. As president emeritus of Jewish Veg and author of Vegan Revolution: Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism, I believe this is the case for “The climate-friendly cows bred to belch less methane” (August 13).

Why? First, as the article indicates, “some dairy industry officials remain unconvinced about low-methane breeding, saying it could lead to digestion problems.” If this proves to be true, the initiative would soon be halted.

Second, the article mentions that “adoption of the low-methane trait could reduce methane emissions from Canada’s dairy herd by 1.5% annually, and up to 20%-30% by 2050.” This means that, while immediate steps are necessary to avert a climate catastrophe, at least 70% of the very potent greenhouse gas will remain over 25 years from now.

Third, and most important, this article and other recent articles that imply that the meat industry is improving conditions for animals and the environment may motivate an increased demand for meat. That would require destroying forests to create more land for grazing and growing feed crops for animals, adding to the over 45% of the world’s ice-free land already used for that purpose.

This loss of carbon-sequestering trees would result in an increase in the already very dangerous level of atmospheric CO2, making a future climate catastrophe even more likely.