April 10, 2003
Battle for the Truth
As a former student at Kerem Yeshiva, I was both gratified and distressed by the article "Battle for the Truth" (March 28). I was heartened by the evenhanded and factual treatment of a story that has caused such damage based on allegation, allusion and innuendo. I agree with Rabbi Marvin Hier's statement that much of the latest offensive against Rabbi Mattis Weinberg aims to preserve mediocrity by tainting nonconventional thinkers. I am glad that the story is beginning to see the light of day.
I am distressed by the continued mishandling of the abuse issue. In the one case, real evidence of inappropriate behavior is repeatedly ignored until immense public pressure is applied to respond to the situation. In the other, reputations, livelihoods and schools are assaulted on the basis of no hard evidence at all. I guess who you know still matters.
Los Angeles does not have a great history of supporting advanced Yeshiva education. Perhaps, the L.A. Orthodox Jewish community will rise to the occasion here and support the yeshiva that boasts deep California roots and that has become imperiled in this case.
Iddo Wernick, Washington
If consistent commitment to the integrity of relationships is a crime, then Rabbi Mattis Weinberg should be locked away. Having spent time with him and his family, as a student, research aide and as an adult, I have been consistently humbled by the care, attention and sensitivity he brings to his relationships with the people in his life. So it was with shock and dismay that I heard about the allegations against him. It simply runs counter to every minute of time spent with the man for nearly 30 years!
Moreover, I have been personally involved from the outset with Derech Etz Chaim (DEC). I watched the Yeshiva University fiasco as it unfolded and, as with Weinberg, there was no due process, no disclosure, none of the normative review processes associated with institutions of higher learning. To this date, all there is to respond to are rumors, speculation and innuendo.
It strikes me as being patently immoral, and in contradiction to every value expressed throughout the centuries by our sages, to deny someone the opportunity to refute the charges being made against them. In the case of DEC, the slander affects the students, the teachers and all of their families and careers. By what right does Rabbi Yosef Blau elect himself as judge, jury and executioner?
David Willner Efrat, Israel
I read with interest, though with increasing irritation, your article on Rabbi Mattis Weinberg. Firstly, I compliment you on the fact that you, apparently as the first editor in this saga, have taken the trouble to apply the basic rule of decent journalism and asked Weinberg for comment. My irritation, indeed shock and horror, therefore, do not stem from your article per se, but rather from the attitude of Yeshiva University.
Even worse is that international Jewish journalism is happy to lower itself to the level of the gutter press and, with you as an exception, adds insult to injury by digging up an array of allegations and unnamed sources, providing a platform for "Weinberg-bashers" without analyzing the agendas of the individuals who jump on this wagon.
Fact is and remains that nothing more than vague allegations of a very few are being blown up out of proportions.
To many others and me, Yeshiva University has shown an ugly face and it would behoove its governors to look into the arguments and motivation of Rav Yosef Blau. They may find that it is not Weinberg or the Derech Etz Chaim Yeshiva which have to disappear from the scene.
As far as the Jewish press is concerned, it may be a better idea to look into what Weinberg has given the Jewish people in the form of books, lectures, seforim and philosophy.
M. Wikler, Antwerp, Belgium
Response to a Letter
I am a Navy chaplain and was interested to read a letter to the editor that described the many challenges a Jew in the Navy faces while at sea (Letters, March 28). There are currently only eight rabbis serving on active duty in the Navy and will be as few as three in the next two years. Yet, even when faced with this challenge, the Navy has always gone out of its way to send me to the far corners of the earth in an attempt to bring Judaism to our troops. After Sept. 11, I flew out to the Gulf for the fifth time and visited seven ships in the Gulf and many bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for Pesach. This past December, I traveled to Guantanamo Bay for Chanukah and will be leaving for the Gulf again in two weeks for Pesach. Our numbers (Jewish chaplains) may be few, but there is no place we won't go! Knowing that we have support back home allows me to leave my family here in Annapolis each and every holiday to be "family" for others who are serving their country.>
LCDR Joel D. Newman, Chaplain USN United States Naval Academy
Joel Kotkin's article, "Will the American Empire Be Good for the Jews," (April 4) was an embarrassment to The Jewish Journal. It seems mind-boggling that the "American Empire" argument supported by such fanatic luminaries (and devout enemies of Israel) as Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky, to name a few, should be given respectable consideration. Perhaps in the hallowed tradition of Mad Magazine we should provide stupid answers to stupid questions. No, it would be far better for the Jews to be under the influence of a French, or perhaps Saudi Arabian, empire!
Richard Friedman , Los Angeles
Joel Kotkin writes that "Jews need to transcend" the association, and ties with Israel and "being always persecuted" as Jewish identities, and get a new identity as citizens of a new world empire.
The characterizations are unfortunately incorrect. The Jews are not simply tied to Israel; the Jews in fact are Israel. The Jew is inextricably and seamlessly connected with the land of Israel regardless of government which rules the world.
Peripheral, temporary or deviant ideology or behavior such as socialism, feminism, leftism, liberalism or the golden calf does not identify a Jew. The standard Jew is doing the best that he knows how to act in the spirit of the Torah tradition, originating with Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
Kotkin may be right that a large empire, which guarantees lawful behavior, may best serve Jewish safety and prosperity by the masses of humanity, using examples of Egypt, Rome and Persia. However, the Jewish people left the safety and prosperity of Egypt, and rebelled against Greece and Rome because they were willing to give up some safety in order to maintain their individual Judaism as free people in their native land.
Bernard Lindner , Los Angeles
Congratulations! With your cover of April 4 (Will the American Empire Be Good for the Jews?) you have given ammunition both to the anti-Americans who accuse the United States of empire building and to the anti-Semites who proclaim that "it is all the fault of the Jews." What next, perhaps the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in serial form?
Sophia J. Felsenfeld, Sherman Oaks
Sorry Joel Kotkin, but here's one Jew who will never accept the replacement of the American Republic for a grand empire. While Kotkin may celebrate such a development, I for one am terrified by its implications. It is a total negation of the Zionist ideal for the Jewish State to be transformed into a mere overseas appendage of Washington. Furthermore, while Kotkin is quick to quote Marcus Aurelius, he forgets that the noble emperor hated the empire, and wanted more than anything to see the old Republic restored. In addition, has Kotkin forgotten that it was very empire he praises that destroyed the Second Temple and murdered Rabbi Akiva? You'll excuse my impertinence but I'm standing with Pat Buchanan, a decent patriot. This empire the neoconservatives are creating will only lead us down the road to disaster!
David L. Blatt, Chicago
The United States of America has not become an empire. An empire is built upon conquest and colonization. Our country has ventured into Iraq for only two reasons: to destroy a regime of terror and to liberate the citizens living under that regime. I truly cannot understand the cynicism of Joel Kotkin.
I am also pained that you wasted a beautiful cover photo of the USS George Washington. It deserved the headline: "Will Operation Iraqi Freedom Be Good for Israel?"
Yossie Kram, Los Angeles