March 9th: Rights at Kotel

There is nothing complex at all. The Rambam was very clear in his viewpoint and his halachic position.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Rights at Kotel
In “Chief rabbis to weigh in on pluralist prayer area at Kotel,” (March 7), Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar is reported to have ruled that “Jewish law forbids according the non-Orthodox movements rights at the Western Wall.”
Note well that the esteemed rabbi does not give a source for his statement. Could it be that there is none? Here’s a hint: It is not in the Torah, the Talmud or the Shulhan Aruch.
The rabbi further states that “reformers and their like falsify the Torah and its commandments.” I have no truck with either the Reform or the Conservative movement, but do object to the rabbi’s blatant distortions and outright lies. Not so many years ago, he publicly lied by saying that the laws of conversion were “very complex, and therefore only a specialist should do conversions.”
Every first-year rabbinical student learns the laws as expounded by the Rambam. There is nothing complex at all. The Rambam was very clear in his viewpoint and his halachic position.
Rabbi Amar is a kofer ba din (one who says that a given mitzva has been replaced with something else). We should ignore his tainted posturings.
The writer is a rabbi
It would be a sacrilege to alter the existing Kotel. While I respect the right of Reform Jews to their feelings, the alteration of such a unique site to accommodate these feelings is unacceptable.
Even if one sets aside any orientation of Jewish observance, the historical, cultural and archaeological impact is way too great.
I beg your prime minister and government not to proceed with such a desecration.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Iran coming closer
The Gulf states have courage (“Gulf Cooperation Council designates Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” March 3).
Hezbollah is funded by Iran, and Lebanon has increasingly become a Hezbollah state. This has enormous implications for Israel. If Lebanon becomes an Iranian state, even without officially being taken over, Israel and Egypt will become the battlefield for clashes with Iran.
Tehran is definitely on its way to taking over the Middle East, with US President Barack Obama’s acquiescence. The Gulf states have issued the first call to this new war.
Gone overboard
Martin Sherman has gone overboard in his rambling Into the Fray columns on Australian Jewish leaders (“To the Australian Jewish establishment: Embrace political truth, not political correctness,” February 26; “The Australian Jewish leadership – the sequel,” March 4).
He demands that Australia’s Jewish leadership adopt his radical right-wing policies. The result would be to destroy its extremely close and effective relationship with all Australian governments, which has been carefully nurtured over many years.
Sherman might be right in arguing that a two-state solution would be disastrous for Israel – most Israelis and Diaspora Jews would probably agree that given the present state of affairs of the Palestinian leadership, nothing can be achieved. This is also the present policy of Israel. But whether he likes it or not, a twostate solution is the declared preference of virtually every democratic country. Some even agree that nothing can be achieved for the time being.
However, it is the height of stupidity to suggest that the Australian Jewish leadership pressure its government to retract its policy.
The responsible behavior of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) on all issues affecting the Jewish community, and its support of a two-state policy mirroring that of the Israeli government, have given it access to every influential person and organization covering the whole gamut of political interests, from Left to Right.
Political integrity has been the very foundation of the Australian Jewish leadership. Unlike its British counterpart, it has not shown any hesitation in publicly criticizing government policies when they have been clearly against Israel’s interests, as they have been on a few occasions under Labor governments. Any attempt to change Australian Jewry’s policy into one that is in opposition to those of both the Australian and Israeli governments is a recipe for political disaster – it would isolate the Jewish community from the political mainstream to become treated like a political pariah.
Australia is a democracy, and Mr. Sherman and his Israeli friends are welcome to come and freely air their views. However, should these visitors try to drag communal institutions into a brawl with either the communal leadership or government bodies by espousing political views that are clearly inimical and damaging to the interests and policies of Australian Jewry and the State of Israel, they can expect condemnation from Jewish leaders and might be better supported by Mr. Sherman advising them to stay home.


CUNY task force
With regard to “Students in Brooklyn College demand ‘Zionists off campus’” (February 18), the City University of New York has consistently and strongly condemned all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism, and we will continue to do so.
We have been deeply concerned with some recent activities on CUNY campuses, and we are committed to ensuring that none of our students are subjected to conduct that would interfere with their opportunity to exercise their rights, obtain an education and participate fully in the life of the university because of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or personal or political views. We take seriously our responsibility to promote and encourage tolerance and civility, and to respond to allegations of prohibited harassment or intimidation so that all our students may enjoy an environment in which they can learn and thrive.
I have engaged highly regarded outside counsel to review incidents and university responses, and to provide recommendations following their review. As a public university, CUNY cannot infringe the constitutional rights of free speech and association of its students, faculty or staff. Indeed, as an institution of higher education, CUNY is committed to the principles of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, which are at the very foundation of American higher education.
The ideas and opinions of members of the university community will often conflict, and the university cannot shield individuals from speech they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even offensive. To ensure that our policies appropriately, consistently and clearly reflect these principles, I recently established a working group of administrative, faculty and student representatives to review university policies on speech and expression at CUNY, and make recommendations.
At the same time, we firmly believe that all members of the university community share responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect and civil discourse, and we are working with college leadership, faculty, staff and students with this in mind.
I will appoint a task force of administrators, faculty and students to review the ways CUNY colleges promote a campus climate that supports a respectful exchange of ideas; identify best practices across CUNY; and learn from the experiences of other universities. The task force will make recommendations for appropriate campus and university action.
These actions, some well underway and some new, reflect our commitment to ensure that the City University of New York provides a safe and welcoming environment for all members of the university community while preserving the university’s essential role as a center for open inquiry, robust debate and learning.


New York
The writer is chancellor of the City University of New York