Words can elevate and words can destroy. There was a time when the Jewish community too glibly and carelessly disregarded words of accusation of sexual abuse against clergy. That was clearly wrong, and Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week helped to correct that. The pendulum has now swung to the opposite extreme, as evidenced in Rosenblatt's column "Unforgiven" (Oct. 1).
The column reports an allegation concerning a relationship from 25 years ago – when Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and 20 and not yet a rabbi – in a situation where he had no pastoral relationship with the person in question. Gafni has a completely different account of what happened, which was not clearly related in the article (including the fact that nothing even vaguely resembling sexual relations took place).
Furthermore, we can attest first hand that several years ago, Gafni made serious attempts to contact this woman in a therapeutically mediated context to clarify the huge gulf in their understandings of what happened and, if necessary, to apologize for any way in which she felt hurt. This offer was rejected and the decision was apparently made that the press was a more appropriate vehicle for conversation.
The story also reports unsubstantiated allegations that are 20 years old. The story critically omits the fact that Rabbi Kenneth Hain, a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, along with a psychologist, investigated the charges and found them to be baseless, and fully cleared Gafni of any wrongdoing.
We have collectively looked at this issue again in the last six months and come to a similar conclusion. Further, Rabbi Gafni has long expressed his desire to meet with any of the parties who feel he has wronged them – even when he has a completely different account of the situation.
We, like Rosenblatt, have struggled with the question of what gravity to assign to persistent rumors. Our conclusion differs from that of Rosenblatt.
We have independently, over many years, spoken to virtually everyone who would speak to us who was directly involved in order to examine the accusations against Gafni. We have found them totally not convincing. Further, there is simply no evidence that Gafni's public role constitutes a risk to Jewish women or to anyone for that matter.
We pray that this unfair scandalous moment will soon be forgotten and that Gafni will be able to free his spiritual energy and formidable intellect in order to help build Jewish consciousness and commitment.
Rabbi Saul J. Berman
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone
I would really like to know exactly what the purpose was of your article on Rabbi Mordechai Gafni. Is The Jewish Journal so hard up for something to write about that you find unsubstantiated rumors regarding events that happened 25 years ago newsworthy? That article was disgusting, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.
My husband and I both applaud Rabbi Eli Hersher for behaving like a true rabbi and not getting sucked into the gossip that has threatened destroy the life of this great teacher ("Herscher: Gafni Still Welcome in L.A.," Oct. 1). If Gafni were not as electric, dynamic and brilliant as he is, no one would be trying so hard to bring him down.
Until these crimes are proven, you are guilty of throwing gas on the fire. This article makes you look awful.
Does anyone else see the irony of being lectured to by Bill Boyarsky about the perils of being a single-issue voter ("Look Beyond Israel," Oct. 1)?
Boyarsky is the ultimate single-issue voter. If you are a Democrat, he will vote for you. If you are a Republican, he will not. Period – end of story.
For Boyarsky, a fundamentalist Democrat, to decry the lack of open-mindedness and big-picture thinking takes a considerable amount of chutzpah. There are none so closed minded as he who believes in his own open-mindedness as a matter of faith.
Views on Bush
In his endorsement for the presidential election ("Why George W. Bush," Sept. 17), Dan Cohen asks rhetorically, "Why George W. Bush"? Why, indeed. If Bush is so great for Israel and the Jews, I have a few other "why" questions to ask:
Why has the situation in Israel during his presidency been the worst since the country's founding in 1948?
Why is worldwide anti-Semitism at the highest level since Hitler dominated half of Europe?
Why has the United States gone from being an object of universal empathy and support after Sept. 11 to the most despised and distrusted nation on earth, severely compromising our ability to serve as a champion for Israel or any other complex cause?
Why does Bush continue to coddle and shield from scrutiny his good friend Saudi Arabia, which is the fomenter and funder of worldwide Islamic radicalism and the country that attacked us on Sept. 11?
Why is Bush's most loyal constituency, and the one he most panders to, the fundamentalist Christian right, a group whose entire world view is antithetical to the social, economic, religious, intellectual and cultural life of mainstream Judaism?
The Bush presidency has been a disaster for Israel, America and the world. Even if Kerry is elected, it will take at least two generations to reverse the damage that's been done.
But the alternative – four more years without even the semblance of restraint in his misadventures from concern over re-election, and the prospect of two or three Supreme Court appointments to cement his homegrown version of Wahhabism – is too frightening to contemplate.
Dr. Wayne W. Grody
When it comes to the Jewish community, history will prove that George W. Bush is the absolute worst president. This president seems to think that by only advancing pro-Israel policies, then Jewish voters would or should flock to him.
Think again. President Bush is advancing a domestic agenda that should scare us. Religious freedom, privacy rights, reproductive rights and civil liberties are at stake in this election as the next president will appoint at least two Supreme Court justices.
Jeffrey L. Hoffer
Dan Cohen writes that Bush will promote economic growth by eliminating the "death tax." In doing so, he participates in Bush's tactic of deceiving and misleading the general public into believing that when the time comes for parents savings to be passed onto their heirs, thanks to him, they will be tax free. When the truth is that for 95 percent of the public, those savings are already tax free, and the further truth is that "death tax" is a contrived name for the estate tax, a name which points in the direction of the very wealthy 5 percent who are the only ones who will benefit if such a tax is eliminated.
That the president would knowingly deceive the general public for a self-serving purpose is shocking. That Cohen would knowingly go along with that deception casts a dark shadow over his article.
Ralph Nurnberger remarks about John Kerry's 100 percent record of supporting Israel security, especially his remarks that he is in favor of Israel building the barrier ("Why John Kerry?" Sept. 17).
What about his remark to the Arab American Institute National Leadership Conference, where he criticized Israel for building the fence and said, "We do not need another barrier to peace?"
Can you still depend on a person who speaks from both sides of his mouth with different words?
Jews in Baseball
Seth Swirsky says that of all the Jews who have played professional baseball, only two, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, are bona fide stars ("Friday Night Game Earns Green a Strike," Oct. 1). Greenberg and Koufax are the only Jews elected to the player's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the game has had other bona fide Jewish stars.
I'll spare you the bios and most of the stats, but had Cleveland Indians' four-time All-Star/American League MVP Al Rosen not had career ending injuries after only seven American Leagues seasons, he'd be side-by-side with Koufax and Greenberg in the Hall of Fame. Then there's Sid Gordon, Harry Danning, Buddy Myer, Kenny Koltzman, Goody Rosen, Larry Sherry, Cal Abrams, Morrie Arnovich and 1981 American League Cy Young Award-winner Steve Stone.
Founder, International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Netanya, Israel
Strikes a Chord
Ted Roberts' first person article struck a chord with me ("Tale of Two Schools," Sept. 3). Although I did not attend Vollentine School, my public school experience was much like his. Mr. Levine was my teacher, also.
I was the only girl in class of a dozen taunting, teasing boys. I did not experience the ruler, but many pinches on the cheeks.
It was Mr. Levine's commitment and dedication that kept me coming, despite all that. He was determined to instill Yiddishkayt in each student, and he succeeded, and we knew that he loved every one of us.
Reva Weinberg Funk
My name is Carla Tanchum and was very surprised to see my name at the top of an article that I vaguely remember being interviewed for ("The Dangers of Apathy," Oct. 1). As I continued to read, I was extremely upset to see that my comments were used to make a rather huge and incorrect statement about me.
While I recall making all the statements mentioned, I was never asked any questions specifically to do with voting. I will definitely be voting in this election. I feel that it is every American citizen's obligation to do so.
The article stated that "what she doesn't have time to do is vote." How dare Ivri make an assumption like that based on my comments. If he had wanted to know if I was going to vote, he should have asked me, himself.
Editor's Note: The line Ms. Tanchum refers to was added during the editorial process and was not written by Idan Ivri. We apologize for the error.