July 28: About ethics

While some of us may not be religious, we maintain our moral compass and do not riot, launder money or accuse others of anti-Semitism when it is clear where the embarrassment lies.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
About ethics... Sir, - I was amazed to read "Haredi newspaper editor: US rabbis' arrest motivated by anti-Semitism in FBI" (July 27). While some of us may not be religious, we maintain our moral compass and do not riot, launder money or accuse others of anti-Semitism when it is clear where the embarrassment lies. How dare these so-called rabbis endanger us all because of their greed and lack of ethics? MARTHA LEV-ZION Omer ...and morals Sir, - "When righteous stumble" (Editorial, July 27) asked what can be done to better stem the types of corruption that seem to have become all too prevalent in the haredi and Orthodox Jewish world. Two practical steps: 1. In the short term, rabbinical leaders must not only speak out much more against specific cases of violence, corruption, etc., but also emphasize more Jewish ethics (musar) in yeshivot, synagogues and other public venues. The classical "musar" movement came about largely because of what leading rabbis of the time saw as a frightening development: intellectual achievement via intensive Torah study overriding many pious Jews' "fear of God," manifested in blatant violations of ritual and ethical commandments. 2. Traditional rabbinical ordination demands intensive study of certain chapters of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) dealing with the ritual aspects of kashrut, ritual slaughter, nonkosher animals, meat and milk, etc. Unfortunately, however, the more "human" chapters, including the laws of charity, visiting the sick, providing for the poor and conversion, while extremely important, are not formal requirements for ordination in much of the Orthodox and haredi world even today. Perhaps it is time to make ordination conditional upon a candidate's knowing Jewish ethics and morals no less than how to properly "kasher" a piece of meat. GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit What's the message? Sir, - Your glaring headline "5 US rabbis nabbed in vast corruption scam" (July 24) must not only fill us with shame but with the painful acknowledgment that God's name has been desecrated. However, one questions the propriety of the actions described in the sub-headline: "FBI agents storm into New Jersey synagogue during prayers." Could not these arrests have been made without vulgar intrusion into a house of worship? Surely not all those whose prayers were violently interrupted were criminals. Two separate crimes seem to be involved - money-laundering and the sale of organs - so why were the charges lumped together, giving the impression of some overall conspiracy? Would official behavior have been so disrespectful had the focus of attention been a church or mosque? Since the FBI is a federal agency, is some message being sent to the Jewish community by the federal government? ZEV CHAMUDOT Petah Tikva Sir, - This latest corruption scandal in New Jersey should send a loud message to all those who think it is good for Jews to vote in a bloc. I have repeatedly warned the Jewish community that some political leader will use the community's leadership to make deals which benefit both parties. This scandal gives ammunition to anti-Semites who repeat Hitler's horrific statements about the Jews and their control of world commerce and industry. It is ironic that the news broke during the nine days, a time of mourning for Jews worldwide because of the destruction of the Temple and other horrific events. Please note, it was a corrupt Jew who turned in the politicians and rabbis. Does anyone truly believe that this scandal goes unnoticed among those who already hate Jews with a passion? RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG New York Land for...? Sir, - Thank you for the excellent "How settlements became 'illegal'" (July 24). Moshe Dann's important and informative review of the period in 1967 following the attack on Israel by Syria, Egypt and Jordan should be required reading, particularly by the representatives of the Obama administration who will soon arrive to pressure our government yet again on the settlements in Judea and Samaria. To quote Mr. Dann: "Land for peace" in reality means "Land for terrorism." LEAH MURRAY Tel Aviv UNRWA isn't complicit Sir, - "Officials: Hamas tunneling near UN facilities" (July 27) clearly linked Hamas and UNRWA by suggesting that there was a tunnel under an UNRWA school. Any allegation that UNRWA is complicit in any militant or military activity is completely false. The story also suggested that UNRWA is oblivious to what goes on in its facilities. This is also patently incorrect. The article cited the incident in 2007 when militants fired rockets from the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun. What it failed to report was that the area around the school and the school itself had been turned into a battleground between militants and the IDF. Because of this, UNRWA evacuated the school, including the guard at the gate, leaving the school empty. It was at this point that militants entered the school. UNRWA condemns the firing of rockets into Israel just as it condemns military activity by the IDF that endangers the lives of UNRWA students and teachers. UNRWA takes all necessary measures to prevent militant or military activities in its facilities. There have been incidents in the past when the IDF and militants have entered our schools in Gaza and used them for military purposes. UNRWA always protests these incidents to both the Israeli authorities and to the authorities in Gaza. CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS UNRWA Spokesperson Jerusalem Hamas wasn't involved Sir, - "Hamas may get its claws into Gaza reconstruction funds - Defense Ministry (July 24) stated that "Hamas has taken control of millions of dollars transferred monthly by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad to the UNDP and designated for Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead." The United Nations Development Program does not receive any monthly payment from the Palestinian Authority. It is possible that your source is referring to a single sum of $21 million which was distributed by UNDP on behalf of the Palestinian Authority earlier this year to people whose homes were damaged in the recent violence. This money was distributed via established banks to beneficiaries on the basis of a UNDP damage assessment. Hamas had no involvement in the process. CONAL URQUHART Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People Jerusalem Pediatricians alone Sir, - Ruthie Blum Leibowitz repeated a mistake which has become almost universal in recent days in the media ("Unorthodox coverage," July 24). Munchausen by Proxy (MBP) is not a psychiatric diagnosis and does not appear in the universally accepted catalogue of psychiatric diagnoses, the DSM-IV. MBP was originally described in 1977 by a British pediatrician, Roy Meadow, and it is a pediatric diagnosis of child abuse made by pediatricians alone. Psychiatrists have no professional standing with regard to this diagnosis and have no professional right or ability to either make or exclude the diagnosis. The psychiatric state of the perpetrator of child abuse is another matter; but the fact of, proof of and nature of abuse is a purely pediatric diagnosis, and it is within this framework that MBP exists. DR. ANTHONY LUDER Head, Dept. of Pediatrics Ziv Medical Center Safed