November 3: A stipend in every pot

For years, full-time married yeshiva (kollel) students have been receiving a stipend from the government to the tune of over 1,000 NIS a month.

A stipend in every pot
Sir, – For years, full-time married yeshiva (kollel) students have been receiving a stipend from the government to the tune of over 1,000 NIS a month. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that this is discriminatory against other students.
Despite the ruling, Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to get this stipend approved in the budget, allotting NIS 121m. over the next two years to these kollel students.
The reason we students have risen up against this budget proposal (“10,000 protest in Jerusalem against yeshiva stipend bill,” November 2) is very simple: The kollel student spends all day studying Torah, having done neither military service nor some form of national service. He doesn’t pay taxes.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have the university student, both secular and religious.
This student has performed her national service or his mandatory three years of military service. This student will be doing reserve military service for the next 20 years.
This student often has to work to pay for rent, food, tuition, and is taxed on every shekel he earns. And yet, this student receives no monthly stipend, no tax cuts, receives none of the benefits that the kollel student receives.
We university students are not against the kollel students or the institute of the kollel. Exactly the opposite is true. We respect learning wherever and however one wants to learn, whether one is studying the theories of a Talmudic rabbi or of Albert Einstein.
We are against the present policy.
BEN GROSS Ra’anana
Sir, – Regarding “Students across the country protest yeshiva stipends: Demonstrators yell ‘Wake up, Bibi!’ and release roosters in front of the PM’s Residence,” October 28): Will haredim now take to the street waving chickens to protest against government scholarships and grants given to students studying such subjects as Greek philosophy or to organizations that spend millions to promote the kicking of footballs into goals?
Sir, – Our government allegedly just offered to lease the Jordan Valley from the Palestinians (“PA denies talk of leasing West Bank land to Israel in future deal,” November 2).
Mind you, the Palestinians don’t actually own the Jordan Valley, so we need to give it to them first, in order to lease it back afterward.
Surprising omission
Sir, – With regard to David Newman’s op-ed “Racism in the name of religion” (November 2), I was more than somewhat surprised that he fails to mention the death penalty imposed on our cousins by other cousins for making land sales to Jews.
Stop the personality cult
Sir, – In “Warts and all” (No holds barred, November 2) Shmuley Boteach advises President Obama how to become more popular.
It seems that the rabbi has been watching or reading way too many TV shows, movies and gossip columns. The whole world is not Hollywood.
Politics is for repairing the world, not for entertainment. Our leaders must know how to initiate and navigate, not fascinate or captivate.
Politicians should produce good policies, rabbis moral messages, and neither should cultivate idealized images of themselves.
Wherefrom stem the roots?
Sir, – According to Defense Minister Ehud Barak (“Mail bomb got to Dubai via two passenger planes,” November 1), the way to combat terror is by “treating its social roots, such as poverty, corruption, illiteracy, and discrimination.”
How does Barak then explain the fact that the September 11 attacks on America were carried out by middle-to-upper-class Muslims who were not only literate but managed to navigate planes into buildings? It is scary that our own defense minister doesn’t understand that the roots of Muslim terrorism stem from a hatred of Western values, not from the social factors on his list.
Charity begins at home
Sir, – Regarding your report “American Jewish World Service draws on star power to raise funds” (November 1): Something that I am sure your readers as well as many of those who donate to AJWS would be interested in knowing is that, as far as I know, none of the over 400 organizations who receive grants from it are in Israel.
As the chairman of a small nonprofit organization involved with feeding needy Safed families, we approached AJWS for a grant some years ago and were refused.
A Chicago Jewish newspaper also tried to contact AJWS on our behalf, and it, too, was given the same information. We were both told that AJWS does not get involved with Jewish Israel but does help Arab women in Gaza.
It would be nice if those who took part in the fundraising as well as those who donated to this cause could be made aware of this sad situation.
While I agree that as Jews we should offer assistance to the rest of the world, if we do not begin our activities at home then what does this really say about us and how we interpret tikkun olam (repairing the world)? That there continue to be over 500,000 Jewish children in Israel who go to bed at night hungry must be addressed.
That so many in the Jewish world continue to overlook this fact in their desire to help the people of the world, including those who hate the Jews, is indeed tragic.
My grandfather’s pocket watch
Sir, – Reading Judy Montagu’s oped about collecting (“The urge to amass,” In my own write, October 27) reminded me of my own collection of old pocket watches with Hebrew lettering.
After World War II someone we had never met before told us the following about my late grandfather, Michel Polak.
This person, a survivor, contacted my parents and told us that he knew my grandfather, who was with him in concentration camp Sobibor, just before Michel was sent to the gas chambers.
Grandpa gave this man his silver pocket watch, the one I admired so much as a boy of seven years old. I still see the Hebrew letters and at the back a “Moshe rabbeinu” with the luchot habrit (Two Tablets of the covenant).
My granddad asked him to give this watch to “my only grandson, Gershon.”
The man had lost the watch and came to Amsterdam to apologize.
Ever since, I looked all over for this watch.
One day, when I was already a granddad, I saw an ad that mentioned a Judaica auction. I went to see the catalog, just out of pure interest, and noticed “the watch.”
Whatever the price, I had to purchase it, not knowing of course who the original owner was.
For many years I have been searching for the old Hebrew pocket watches. I bought a few more, and this was the beginning of a collection.
Montagu, quoting her friend, writes, “Clocks are a reaffirmation of life... Their ticking is like the heartbeat.
Someone who collects clocks is connecting to a special memory that gives security.”
Yes, my clocks speak to me. They tell me about the train to Sobibor owned by the Dutch government (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). These trains transported thousands of Dutch Jews to the camps, one of whom was my grandfather Michel, with the pocket watch still in his pocket.
Yes, my clocks speak to me about a loving grandfather, who went on loving until a few minutes before his death.