Letters to the editor, January 12

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Why Jews need Chabad... Sir, - I find it ironic that Marvin Shick can criticize Chabad's outreach efforts to bring Jews back to Judaism, then make it clear in the next sentence that he recognizes that without Chabad, Orthodox Jews around the world who find themselves in China needing a kosher meal can find one only because of Chabad ("Where is Chabad heading?" January 10). It is exactly Chabad's desire to connect to every Jew's' neshoma (soul) that takes its emissaries to those places where Jews need them. One may not choose to daven in Chabad shuls in one's own neighborhood, but their prayer and services are as Orthodox as you can get. Maybe all the Jews praying are not Shabbos-observant, but Hasidism teaches us that every Jew is an engraved letter in the Torah, and it just takes someone to wipe away the dust to connect and light up that soul. It is those souls that continue to support Chabad so Jews like you and me can eat a kosher meal or attend a Shabbos service in almost any city in the world today. IRA LEIBOWITZ Encino, California Sir, - Rabbi Schick correctly observes that Chabad's success has been due, in part, to the "vulnerability of existing service providers." This was certainly the case in my hometown of Swampscott, Massachusetts, where Chabad offered the only daily minyan, affordable family learning and spirit of Yiddishkeit missing elsewhere. But he is wrong to suggest that Chabad's method of outreach weakens the franchise. Chabad offers critically important portals of entry to the blessings of mitzvot for those of us who, for whatever reason, come to feel that the Conservative and Reform movements are not enough. When I first met Yossi Lipsker, my Chabad rabbi, many years ago, he taught me to put on tefillin and began to teach me to daven. A congregant's father died a few months later and I committed to joining the daily minyan so our friend could say Kaddish. A couple of years later Yossi kashered our kitchen. I am proud to say all this eventually led to my children attending an orthodox day school in Brookline. The school day was long and the 50-minute commute made it longer, but the kids loved it. Their sense of Yiddishkeit and love of learning is built upon a foundation I owe to my Chabad rabbi. No, Yossi never asked me whether I drove my car to synagogue; but he did ask me from time to time to consider adding another mitzva. It was never a hard sell, but it didn't need to be. Yossi and his family (the only Chabadniks in town) led us with their enduring spirit, endless energy and, most of all, enormous love of Jewish tradition. We are now living in Israel, but have not yet found a shul that offers the same opportunity to learn in a supportive yet non-judgmental setting. Of course we see Chabad everywhere here; the messianic branch is particularly visible. But somehow it is not the same. And it's too bad. In the short time we've been here it seems that the division between secular and observant Jews is particularly acute. Sometimes it appears that the greatest threat we face as a nation is from within. In the meantime, a hard-working Chabad emissary in a small US shul has made a big impact. ROBERT M. FINKEL Ra'anana ...and Dershowitz Sir, - For Marvin Schick to fault Chabad at almost every turn - its outreach efforts, telethons, fundraising methods and general direction - is his prerogative. But his using Chabad's choice of Alan Dershowitz as a speaker to further discredit the organization requires a response. As someone who has known Alan for almost 60 years, I can attest that he absolutely does not harbor nasty thoughts about Orthodox Jews. While Mr. Schick may disagree with many of Dershowitz's writings, I would challenge him to provide instances of nastiness therein. Alan has quietly provided pro bono services to many Orthodox organizations, communities and individuals, some specifically concerning issues of great importance to observant people. He has also strongly and logically defended the State of Israel and been out front helping Jewish student groups respond to the Palestinian and Islamist threat on US campuses. CARL MESHENBERG Long Beach, New York Sir, - Marvin Schick's mother was a wonderful woman who baked great hallas, but Marvin didn't learn anything from her about the Jewish prohibition against lashon hara. Everything he says about me in his opinion piece is totally wrong. If I had "written nastily about religious Jews" I don't think Yeshiva University would have given me an honorary doctorate. Nor would Bar-Ilan. Nor would I have been invited to speak to numerous Orthodox synagogues and organizations. They recognize that I have devoted much of my professional life to defending the rights of Orthodox Jews at Harvard and all over the world. I have argued for the right of Orthodox Jews to put up an eruv. I have opposed holding classes and graduations on Jewish holidays, even those observed exclusively or primarily by Orthodox Jews. Virtually my entire family is Orthodox, as are many of my oldest friends. Moreover, only a self-righteous Jew would imply that only Orthodox Jews are religious. I attend a conservative synagogue, where my daughter was bat-mitzvahed. It is a religious institution conducting religious events. I'm sure there are some haredim who do not regard Marvin Schick as sufficiently religious. I will contribute $1,000 to Marvin Schick's favorite charity if he can provide any documentation that I have "exalted marrying out." Schick just made it up, as he has the rest of his attack on me. It is precisely this kind of internecine personal attack that weakens the Jewish community at a time when it is under so much external assault. Marvin, learn from your mother. She was a tolerant woman who would never accept your kind of intra-Jewish bigotry and sinat hinam. ALAN DERSHOWITZ Cambridge, Massachusetts Sharon made friends of skeptics Sir, - Ariel Sharon has turned many of us from adversaries into believers in Israel; he has given us faith in its promise and hope. He has even led many of us to revise our earlier and more critical sense of Israel's original reason for coming into existence and subsequent history. Perhaps most simply, he has given or restored for us our simple affection for this little state, making us realize that a place can be far from perfect but still move us with fondness and compassion and admiration. The previous and conservative editor of the Post, Brett Stephens, once wrote (February 13, 2004) that what Israel needed was "a Zionist Left"- that is, more people who were left-wing Zionists rather than non-Zionists. His example was Amos Oz. This is what Sharon, a conservative-turned-centrist, who probably had not a thought of doing so, has managed to make of many of us. About this ability, so late in his career, to turn so many skeptics and enemies into friends: I cannot imagine what higher praise can be given to any human being ("Sharon said back from brink of death," January 11). JAMES ADLER Cambridge, Massachusetts Sir, - The prime minister projected strength and determination and succeeded in his life's path against great difficulty. It has been most unsettling to be reminded of our own mortality. BARRY LYNN Efrat Toward recovery Sir, - Re aiding Mr. Sharon's recovery: Some doctors in the US are using hyperbaric oxygen chambers to help patients recover brain functions after strokes. Results have been very good in many cases. PAUL RATMANSKY Philadelphia Nothing more painful Sir, - I was shaken when I read Margot Dudkevitch's "Security forces pool resources to nab olive tree culprits" (January 10). With many olive tree vandals still at large, it is not whether these trees were vandalized or pruned, whether it was done by Jews or Arabs, or whether the trees posed a security threat that caused my distress. Rather it was the last line: "the sources declared 'there is nothing more painful than seeing a plot of damaged olive trees.'" I don't wish to belittle the destruction of someone's livelihood or source of food, but I can think of many things more painful than seeing a plot of damaged olive trees. Watching a woman hold her newborn in her arms and knowing that she can never share her joy with her husband. Seeing three teenage boys' mangled bodies lying on their high school campus. Attending the funeral of a woman and her three children. All were murdered by Arab terrorists, and the scenarios described happened inside Itamar, a village not far from where the controversial trees are located. ESTER KATZ SILVERS Shilo God's mind Sir, - Re "'Why is God doing this now?'" (January 11): God, poor guy, is being blamed for every dastardly deed or natural disaster. It seems he is also so transparent in his thinking and actions that almost every rabbi and preacher is able to read his thoughts and know exactly what he does and his reasons for doing so. Thank God, I'm thinking of becoming an atheist - or was that also his punishment (or reward) for me? MARY POPPER Herzliya Pat's comfort Sir, - If Pat Robinson believes Ariel's Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for handing over land in the Gaza pullout, he may take comfort in Israel's subsequent decision not to hand over any of our land in the Galilee to him ("Israel cancels $50m. Galilee alliance with PM-bashing evangelist," January 11). YONATAN SILVER Jerusalem Sir, - Kudos to Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson for declining not only Pat Robertson's $50-million-dollar Galilee Center funding deal, but the fanaticsm that goes along with it. STUART PILICHOWSKI Mevaseret Zion Gaining friends Sir, - I can understand Judy Montagu's distress ("About living in Israel and losing friends," January 8). Here in Scotland we also have a few "morally superior" Jews, some of whom have voiced the opinion that the worst thing to have happened to the Jews was the re-creation of the State of Israel. Thankfully, they are in a small minority, nicknamed "the Dirty Dozen" after being exposed by a Jewish community newspaper as disseminating lies about Scottish supporters of Israel. The good news is that Israel is gaining more friends than she is losing. The Scottish non-Jewish public, in general, understands and supports Israel's situation and Scotland's Jewish communities (see www.scottishfriendsofisrael.org). Recently, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland was reported as stating: "I understand the need for a security wall/fence between Israel and the Palestinian Authority territories. I don't like it, but I understand: No one wants suicide bombers around." STAN GROSSMAN Secretary, SFI Glasgow, Scotland