July 2, 2018: Part of the tribe

Our readers weigh in.

Letters 150 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 150
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Part of the tribe
“A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It doesn’t matter what kippa he wears or doesn’t wear or what stream he belongs to. We are one people!” Issac Herzog said on his appointment to Jewish Agency chairman.
How refreshing! How brilliant! How wonderful to hear.  The news is full of exclusions of all those who cant make aliya.
It even touched the US president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump Kushner. If someone is of a quarter Jewish descent and loves and identifies with the Jewish people, then they have the legal right to make aliya. But this doesn’t happen.
Now many are illegally discriminated against by a small elite – some of whom don’t believe in Israel, wont join the IDF, and even side with Iran.
Many Reform, Conservative, messianic and Jews of mixed parents are discriminated against.
They are not supported to join Birthright, or Nefesh B’Nefesh. Their aliya application is refused.
There is a woman who is married to a native-born Israeli for eight years and still hasn’t gotten her citizenship or medical rights. She has given birth to a number of baby Israelis.
Hashem didn’t ask for paperwork when He called us to receive the Ten Commandments at Sinai.
However, Hashem did talk about the sanctity of marriage.
If you are part of the tribe you are part of the tribe. If you marry into the tribe you are part of the tribe.
At least Ruth was.
I wish Herzog great success in his new appointment.
Try harder
 On the front page of the June 26 newspaper is an article titled “New Orthodox marriage service to be launched.” This is a serious issue.
Since Mount Sinai, Torah has been handed down directly from person to person, teacher to student. That ensured that the student could trust the validity of the lesson; in this case, I refer to halachic teachings. When you trust the teacher’s knowledge, you can feel confident in eating in someone’s home, buying his kosher products, doing business with him... and marrying his child.
 In the past, when we lived in closed communities, we all knew each other, or knew someone who did. It was easy to know who was Jewish. Over the generations, the Jewish population has grown and spread out all over the world, such that we cannot know everyone personally anymore.
Today, life is infinitely more complicated. Communist Russia banned religion, and people grew up ignorant of anything Jewish, including their backgrounds. The Holocaust erased entire Jewish communities, including any helpful records. Mixed marriages abound. Conversions are complicated, especially from places in the world where there was no history of Jewish life.
Modern technology has greatly increased halachic questions about who is a Jew. Halacha is based on matrilineal descent because we knew who was the mother; today that’s not always clear.
This becomes dangerous when it comes to defining who is legitimately Jewish. The underlying question in issues of religious rulings is “Who says so?” We no longer have a Sanhedrin whose rulings are universally accepted. We do have a national Rabbinate, whose rulings, unfortunately, have lately been challenged, so that new organizations are popping up, conferring Jewish identity on various people whose status was questioned or denied by the Rabbinate.
I’m sure that efforts have been made to deal with the problems of the Rabbinate, but I think we must try harder. This is not simply a plumbing problem where we just bypass a blocked pipe with a new one. Otherwise we may see genealogy charts listing the names of the rabbis who officiated at people’s weddings. Halachic marital status, and therefore the status of children, could depend on the answer to this question.
Never dehumanize
In his featured comment (“The fields of the Negev”, June 25) Gilad Sharon addresses the citizens of Gaza.
He lashes out, the words are hash, contemptuous and condemning. I go along. I agree. Up until the last paragraph.
A line is crossed, from justified anger to malicious hate. The Palestinians in Gaza are referred to as “reptiles.” “Snakes.” They’re like the “nest of vipers” in his yard. And like the vipers, they should be “wiped out.”
When people – enemies included – are reduced to vermin, the logical step is indeed to wipe them out.
That’s why dehumanizing people is vile and dangerous. A moral line that should never be crossed. History tells us.
Netanya and Oslo
Hear, hear!
I entirely agree with Auri Spigelman (Letters, June 27) that “if haredim have specific seating preferences, there should be required arrangement in advance (with the airline or an agent).”
Unfortunately, El Al does not provide the option of requesting a seat next to a person of the same gender as oneself. To do so should not be more difficult than processing special meal requirements and would have avoided the recent unfortunate incident.
Once such a facility exists, those who fail to use it and, only once on board, refuse to sit in their assigned place, for whatever reason, should be removed from the aircraft immediately, with no refund, compensation or re-booking services.
The behavior of those four unruly passengers was completely unacceptable but the over-the-top reactions to it in the media – as opposed to the understandable irritation of those actually on the flight – betrayed the sort of xenophobia from which Jews have often suffered in the past.
Why can’t everyone accept that others may have a different lifestyle rather than try to force their own on them?
Salford, UK
It’s all Chinese to me
Regarding the Media Line article “Chinese master chefs dazzle in Tel Aviv,” June 26, by Maya Margit, while I commend the activities of Chinese chefs seeking to instruct locals in the art of preparing oriental cuisine, I am puzzled by Ms. Margit’s contention that the purpose of their visit is to enable local fooderies to provide suitable sustenance for Chinese visitors.
British holidaymakers do not visit Spain, Italy and Greece in order to sample the locals’ fish and chips, French holidaymakers don’t look for escargot when spending their summer break in the USA. So why would Chinese visitors seek out authentic Chinese cuisine in that international melting-pot of dining called Tel Aviv?
Baka, Jerusalem
Closer look at Qatar
Qatar has lots of money and doesn’t hesitate to spread it around for its own purposes. If the goal of a foreign government is to influence American public opinion or to achieve the implementation of a particular policy, often commercial, then under the Foreign Agents Registration Law (FARA), the recipient must register as a foreign agent. It is not illegal to receive these funds, but it is illegal not to disclose and to register.
According to reports about Qatar’s recent attempts to influence conservative US Jewish leaders, at least two recipients of $50,000 of Qatari funds did register, “Catastrophic collapse of Qatar’s corrupt communal campaign,” Shmuely Boteach, “No Holds Barred,” June 26.
But instead of pointing the finger only at the recipients, let’s also examine what Qatar has been up to. For Qatar, these donations are small change, and its influence campaign in the US did not begin with Jewish organizations. Its sights are set on bigger fish.
For example, in 2014, the New York Times reported that Qatar gave about $14,000,000 to the prestigious Brookings Institute. Its relationship with Brookings began in 2007, and the institute’s 2017 annual report shows that Qatar continues to be one of its five biggest donors.
As a result of the Times article, there were some suggestions that Brookings should register as a foreign agent. Its mission statement is to prepare studies of problems facing society, and many commentators were highly skeptical that these studies would be impartial if Qatar’s interests were involved. The conclusions of these studies can have a significant impact on policy decisions. Does the word “bias” come to mind?
However, Brookings issued a bland response that concluded that it was not required to register, and the matter was forgotten.
Maybe now is the time to look at all of the beneficiaries of Qatar’s largesse, to determine how successful it has been in influencing policy makers, and as a consequence, who has failed to register as a foreign agent.
Of course, Qatar is just one example of the many foreign governments seeking to purchase influence on policy decisions, and their activities are mainly under the radar screen. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if there is sufficient public will to confront this problem.
Quality of life
I read with great interest and compassion the article by Ari Harow, “Happy birthday Beth,” June 22, concerning his dear sister Beth and her recent diagnosis of Young Onset Alzheimer’s. To family members and especially the person him/herself, it is shocking and devastating news.
I work for the non-profit organization Melabev, which in 2016 realizing the importance of addressing the needs of this target population, became the pioneer provider of a specifically designed program for those who have been diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
 The program offers a range of individual therapeutic and group activities as well as social activities to help the person feel they are still an important part of their family and community, giving them quality of life with dignity and self-worth.
Melabev also operates three day centers in Jerusalem and one in Beit Shemesh that specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care for the elderly, several of whom are Holocaust survivors. Anyone wishing to learn more about Melabev and our many programs may contact me at [email protected], or 073-796-3959.
The writer is director of resource development at Melabev.