January 18, 2012
Letters to the Editor: Neo-Nazis, Halachah, unemployment and anti-Semitism
Who Are Today’s Neo-Nazis
Rob Eshman is correct to decry the world’s double standard when criticizing the ultra-barbaric state of Syria (“Stop the Stalinists,” Jan. 13). The irony of course that Qatar, a sister Arab Muslim nation, published a cartoon depicting Bashar Assad as a Nazi goes far beyond the obvious: The Baath parties, both in Syria and Iraq, modeled their governments upon the Nazi Party for many reasons, including the German’s military opposition to British power during World War II. The friendship and alliance between Amin Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and grandfather of the Palestinian movement, and Adolf Hitler, and their shared hatred of Jews still resonates today in the Arab world. Mr. Eshman should rethink his attitude to the American take-down of Saddam Hussein, one of the foremost exponents of neo-Nazism in our time. Hopefully Syria will go the way of Iraq in the near future.
When Is God Watching?
In “Judaism’s Walking Billboards” (Jan. 6), David Suissa writes, “If you look like a religious Jew, and you spit on an Orthodox girl because her dress code doesn’t meet your standard of modesty, and the incident is caught on Israeli television and goes viral on YouTube, then you are slandering Judaism and it’s a crisis.”
Basically the problem, if I understand Suissa correctly, is that this incident was videotaped and went viral. Suissa believes this slanders Judaism. However, slander means falsehood. If we observe via video an Orthodox Jewish man spitting on an 8-year-old girl, that would not be slander; that would be irrefutable fact.
In conclusion, Suissa writes: “And if there are Jews who bother you, you don’t spit on them, you invite them over for Shabbat.”
Suissa left out the rest. Once in your home, make sure all electronic devices have been turned off (it is Shabbat, of course). Then you spit on them, maybe even slap them around a little. This way no one will see it and Judaism’s image will remain untarnished. Apparently God does not see everything, according to Suissa. God only sees what we do when it makes it to video and it goes viral.
Richard S. Levik
Prager and Halachah
Last year, Dennis Prager told us that halachah demands that Jews support capital punishment, even if it means that innocent people might be put to death on occasion (”What About Innocents Who Are Executed?” April 1, 2011). No matter that our sages throughout the ages disagree with him, including Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Tarfon, Rabbi Akiva, Maimonides (who said that it would be better for a thousand guilty persons to be acquitted than for one innocent to be put to death), and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, who wrote that the “rules of evidence and other safeguards that the Torah provides to protect the accused made it all but impossible to actually invoke these penalties.” But now comes Mr. Prager to tell us why he himself doesn’t actually have to follow this same halachah (“Can Halachah Ever Be Wrong?” Jan. 13). The reason: second-day yom tov. In other words, Prager has no problem distorting halachah and demanding that everyone follow his interpretation of it when it comes to promoting his political agenda, but he excuses himself from having to do the same when it is personally inconvenient. Put another way, it’s OK to condemn an innocent person to death as long as it doesn’t interfere with Prager’s ability to drive to the beach on the second day of Shavuot.
Kudos to Dennis Prager. Some rabbis are so stuck on the oral law that they forget what our great sage Rabbi Hillel considered to be the foundation of the Torah — simply put, be a mensch.
Getting Your Foot in the Door
I was quoted in the article “Retraining Programs Get Unemployment Bump” (Jan. 6), but there was something that Ms. Wizenfeld did not include that is important for the unemployed.
If you are unemployed, find an internship or volunteer for a company where you are interested in working or are trying to transition. This will give you a foot in the door. One thing I am seeing is that the longer a person is unemployed, the more unemployable they become. It is all about employer perception.
Greenberg Cartoon Skewed on Ron Paul’s Record
Steve Greenberg’s recent cartoon suggests that Texas Congressman Ron Paul is an anti-Semitic sympathizer of extreme right views (Jan. 13). Greenberg loosely alleges that Paul has an ideological kinship with Pat Buchanan, an unassailable nationalist who supports tariffs, isolationism and, to some, an exacerbation of the culture wars that have dominated our political discourse for the past 20 years.
To suggest that Paul is a rabid, Jew-baiting isolationist with crypto-fascist tendencies escapes the imagination. What editorials is Mr. Greenberg reading? Paul has never excoriated a “Jewish lobby” in Washington, he has never spoken against minorities, and he does not despise the place of immigrants in our country.
To say the least, Greenberg’s View is skewed, and he cannot hide behind his liberal sympathies to justify such overt and unsupportable slander. We are all entitled to our opinion, but to implicate a public figure in such outrageous and outlandish allegations is just reprehensible.
Arthur Christopher Schaper
Dennis Prager makes some important points regarding how halachah can influence good Jews to make bad decisions (“Can Halachah Ever Be Wrong?” Jan. 13). The Rambam (Maimonides) called such actions (or individuals) “menuval b’reshut HaTorah” — disgusting within the bounds of the Torah.
But then he makes a leap to ignoring rabbinic law (such as second-day yom tov). The two rabbis he cites in his essay surely would be chagrined that he invoked their names to make such a point. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits passed away in 1992, but perhaps The Journal could invite Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to respond?
In “Can Halachah Ever Be Wrong?” (Jan. 13), Dennis Prager brought up the topic of Yom Tov Sheni. This relates to there being an extra day in some holidays outside of Israel (with there being only one day of Yom Kippur) due to calendar uncertainty. My understanding is that, after the calendar was worked out, the second day was retained outside of Israel since, when one is not in Israel, one needs an extra day to reach the same spiritual level that one can achieve in Israel in one day of yom tov. As for Yom Kippur, since it is unreasonable to require people to fast for two days in a row, it was always one day long outside of Israel.
Boteach to Present at Limmud LA Conference
Thank you for your piece on Limmud and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (“Lord Shmuley?” Jan. 6). I attended Limmud UK in December on behalf of Limmud LA as part of the Limmud International delegation and had the opportunity to hear Rabbi Boteach’s timely, humorous and insightful lecture on the halachic approach to sex. It was both entertaining and educational. We are very excited to announce that Rabbi Boteach will also be presenting at the Limmud LA Conference coming up Feb. 17-19. Full details about this outstanding event can be obtained at our Web site: limmudla.org. Anyone who has attended previous conferences can attest to the excitement and powerful sessions, open to those from any and all backgrounds and levels of Jewish observance.
Comparing Anti-Semitism in Ancient, Modern Times
First, the Egyptians also were Semites; second, the Jews were not yet a people to be hated because they were Jews. They were hated because a paranoid leader demonized them to assuage his fears. This is much more akin to the pre-emptive war program of Hobbesians Bush and Cheney.
My objection is buttressed by Dennis Prager’s explanation for anti-Semitism found in his book, “Why the Jews?” His answer is that, standing alone, any one of the three pillars of Judaism — God, Torah and Israel — has been sufficient to incite virulent anti-Semitism, let alone all three inherent in the beliefs of one people. These three pillars were not yet in place in Pharaoh’s Egypt.
An article about a debate between Brad Sherman and Howard Berman (“Sherman Lays Into Berman in Four-way Congressional Debate,” Jan. 13) was incorrect in saying that Sherman attacked Berman for supporting a bill that Sherman had voted for. He did not; a more complete discussion of this issue can be found on the Berman v. Sherman blog at jewishjournal.com.
An article about a lawsuit filed against Eden Memorial Park (“Eden Cemetery Trial Set for May,” Jan. 11) indicated that 30 groundskeepers had implicated Eden in interviews with the plaintiff’s attorney, Michael J. Avenatti. According to Eden’s attorney, Steven Gurnee of Gurnee and Daniels LLP, near Sacramento, 14 current and former groundskeepers have been deposed, and only three testified to being aware of broken outer burial vaults. In addition, F. Charles Sands is no longer the named plaintiff in the case.
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