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Opinion
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Defeat the Tea Party

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Last week the Supreme Court passed a ruling on how large a donation can be contributed for an election. I guess the lobbyists’ situation that we have in the United States probably had not been doing enough in corrupting our elected and appointed officials. Now donors can spend millions of dollars to win an election. They can spend millions in the 2014 elections.

What chance do 85 percent of our American voters have when a Mr. Adelson and his wife, plus the Koch brothers of Texas, can spend $98,000,000 on the elections, as they did in last year’s election?

I cannot compare our election to Mr. Putin’s elections in Russia, but five members of our Supreme Court can bury their heads in shame.

The only way our Republican democracy can survive is for the Tea Party to be defeated in November 2014. It is up to the people to take our country back.

 

 
 

Don’t make fun of kosher enemas

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One of the challenges Jews face is being tolerant and respectful of other Jews who practice religion differently than they do (page 3, April 11). Whether I agree with what you wrote regarding the rabbinate of Rishon Letzion endorsing kosher enemas or Rabbi Friedlander choosing not to eat matzah other than at the seder is irrelevant. My point is that it is not for a newspaper to deride other peoples choices but to present news in an unbiased fashion!

 

 
 

Thank you, federation

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Please join me in raising a glass to congratulate the Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Joy Kurland, plus Rabbi Paul Jacobson of Avodat Shalom in River Edge and Rabbi Neil Tow of the Glen Rock Jewish Community Center.

They join the ADL in demonstrating just how the strength of an organization can make headway where an individual is ignored. Both the ADL and the federation have succeeded brilliantly in helping the troubled Palisades Park Public Library to gradually crawl out of the dark ages concerning the Jewish people. Here’s the story:

Last summer on this Letters page (Aug. 23), I reported how the ADL succeeded in getting the library to replace its offensive “Religions” plaque. For years, it listed Christian or Non-Christian as the only options. Now, post-ADL, the new plaque simply says “Religion.”

However, the library, which claims in its mission statement that it practices diversity, has the only known permanent mural of Santa/Xmas tree on the walls of a children’s library in a government building. The library never commemorated the Holocaust, but instead seemed to put the plight of the comfort women as the most significant event in all of WWII. They even used the library to raise money for Korean women (who live in Korea.)

These points may have been unknown to Ms. Kurland when last Labor Day, as part of an outreach project with Bergen County’s Korean community, she and the rabbis got involved with a run between the Comfort Women monument in Hackensack and the one outside the Palisades Park Library. The small Jewish population of Palisades Park was not happy with this involvement. (The event was felt to be disrespectful to Labor Day and residents resented paying for police overtime on a day when they should have been off.)

Quick to remedy the situation where possible, Ms. Kurland and Rabbi Jacobson did a tour of the town, which once boasted a large Jewish population. They reached out to the Palisades Park Library. Once the worst of the winter snows were over, Ms. Kurland and both rabbis attended the March library board meeting. They were made very welcome by the nondiverse board. The board agreed to join with other local public libraries in commemorating the Holocaust. A first! Bravo!

This week, Ms. Kurland delivered a number of books, posters, and memorial candles from the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, courtesy of Rabbi Tow. The library was given a poster with details of the Holocaust Commemoration taking place in Wayne on April 27. The Library Director has asked Ms. Kurland and the rabbis for a suggested list of Judaic books to be added to the library. (As the library buys lots of Korean language books, the local Jewish population is waiting to see if the library pays for the books or whether they expect the Jewish community to keep donating freebies.)

I’ll be happy to report on any future headway this successful trio might make.

With elections coming up, even the controversial Santa mural may have a new role. Palisades Park is such a strictly Democrat-run town that there’s no Republican opposition. For those who claim that the Democrats take the Jewish vote for granted, look no further than the walls of the Palisades Park children’s library. This Santa may end up helping the Republicans.

 

 
 

It is not an occupation

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We disagree strongly with your recent editorial, “Call it what you want — it’s still an occupation.” The word “occupation” clearly implies something immoral or illegal; however, in fact, Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is neither.

Judea and Samaria are not “occupied territories.” The 1922 British Mandate, authorized by the League of Nations, defined Judea and Samaria as part of the Jewish national home. The right of Jews to settle there is stated in Article 6 of the Mandate. Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice, stated that the basis of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is self defense, and therefore did not constitute “occupation.” Eugene Rostow, former U.S. Undersecretary of State and co-author of UN Resolution 242, stated that Resolution 242 entitles Jews to settle in Judea and Samaria. Finally, the 1993 Oslo Accords did not prohibit Jews from settling there.

Under the circumstances, people who support Israel and care about the truth are certainly justified to be upset by the word “occupation.”

 

 
 

It is not an occupation

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I felt sucker punched when I read the April 4 editorial by PJ (“Call it what you want — it’s still occupation.”)

The lingo of the opposition is not for those of us who love Israel and are passionate about its survival. It isn’t even accurate, despite Thomas Friedman’s usage. Occupation presupposes that another nation was officially recognized to govern that area, and that someone else invaded and took possession. At most, perhaps we can accurately refer to this territory as “disputed land.”

Historically, look at the short view and the long view. No government has “owned” the West Bank/Yehuda-Shomron in the recent past. Were Arabs living there just before 1948? Yes, in some parts. Were Jews living there just before 1948? Yes, in some parts. Arabs may have stayed there from 1948 to 1967, but Jews were expelled. Go back a few thousand years, and aside from the Biblical accounts, many archeological sources confirm the presence of Jewish life, well before Christian, or — much later — Muslim life was conceived. In the years that followed, a Jewish presence remained, sometimes very small and sometimes larger.

So, how should this territory be allocated? That’s to be negotiated, and we must be cautious that our speech does not pre-judge the resolution of the much touted and also maligned peace talks. Israel won this territory in a war fought for survival. As I recall, during those six unforgettable days in 1967, the IDF had penetrated enemy lines almost to Damascus, but Israel did not have designs on areas outside of “traditional Eretz Yisrael” and pulled back to land that was familiar historically and experientially.

Borders must not be predefined by propaganda. When we adopt the lingo of the opposition, we are self- defeating, apologetic Jews, and we leave our non-Jewish, Israel-supporting friends in a quandary; what is it exactly that we are asking them to support?

I hope that we will give Israel the support it needs to participate in peace talks (if the PA agrees to continue) with confidence, and to defend itself and protect its citizens of all ethnicities adequately and appropriately, whenever it may be necessary.

 

 
 

It is not an occupation

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Your editorial of April4 about Israel as an occupying power runs contrary to the Jewish biblical narrative and 20th century political history. The Torah, which has been the Jewish guidepost throughout our people’s history, starts off, in the very first sentence, saying that the God who created the world designated the land of Israel for the Jewish people.

The foremost Biblical commentator, Rashi, in the 11th century, explained that there would come a time when the nations of the world will falsely claim that the Jews “stole” their land; hence the Torah begins with this narrative. For centuries this belief remained deeply ingrained in the Jewish psyche. It was this steadfast faith that endured the long night of exile, and propelled the Jewish return to Israel, while a remnant of the people remained. In the 20th century, at the end of the First World War in 1917 and upon the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, the world powers and League of Nations designated this land as home for the Jewish people, which consisted of today’s Israel and Jordan. In 1922 the British unilaterally severed 78 percent and created the Hashemite kingdom of Transjordan, and in 1948 the country of Israel was officially entered as a sovereign nation.

At no time was there such an entity as Arab Palestine. That term referred specifically to Israel. In 1937, the Arab High Committee secretary stated that “there is no such country as Palestine” and went on to say that Palestine is a country that the Zionists invented. Ten years, later in 1947, before the United Nations, the Arab High Committee stated that the Arabs of Palestine are not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity. They consider themselves part of Syria. In 1977, Farook Kaddoumie of the PLO political department told Newsweek magazine that the Palestinians and Jordanians are one and the same, and the Executive Council fo the PLO stated there is no difference between Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese or Palestinians.

It is only for tactical political reasons that there is the existence of a separate Palestinian entity. There is no Arab historicity, no indigenous Palestinian culture, and no Arab Palestinian peoplehood. The myth of Israel occupation is made of whole cloth, and this false narrative becomes the more tragic when disseminated and made credible by our own people.

 

 
 

Passover reflections

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Freedom and responsibility

Freedom is a tricky entity.

It can open avenues of positive imagination and creativity because a free people’s potential belongs ultimately to them and need not answer to a master who may limit that potential.

This is why the Haggadah must open with questions. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that if a person celebrates Pesach alone, he must ask himself the questions that lead into the story of the Exodus. The right to question, the ability to challenge authority, is the sign that a person ultimately is free. As long as an authority can say, “Keep that unacceptable idea to yourself,” you are not free. Therefore our Festival of Freedom must start with questions, which are always in some way subversive.

 

 
 

Why be Jewish? I’ll answer the question myself

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In March I wrote in the Jewish Standard about the challenges posed to the organized Jewish community by my generation, the much- (if not, over-) discussed Millennials (“So, really, why be Jewish?”).

We need to refocus ourselves, I said, by turning away from questions like “Who is a Jew?” The key Jewish question of our time is this: Why be Jewish? “With the arrival and maturation of my generation, the Millennials, the question, ‘Who is a Jew?’ is rather passé,” I wrote. “The fact is that ‘Who is a Jew?’ is the wrong question. To maintain our relevance—to regain it, really—the question we must ask today is ‘Why be Jewish?’”

 

 
 
 
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Criticizing charedim — what about our kids?

Hundreds of thousands of charedim marched against military conscription last Sunday. The issue is tearing Israel apart.

More secular Israelis argue that the charedim are parasites. They don’t work. They live off government subsidies. Worse, they don’t fight for the country, expecting some other’s guy’s kid to risk his or her life and possibly die so the charedim can sit idly and study, contributing nothing meaningful to the country.

The charedi response is that their Torah study defines the essential character of the Jewish state. After all, without the Torah and Judaism, what distinguishes Israel from Belgium? The contribution of the young man with side curls sitting in front of a Talmud is no less valuable than his olive-green clad counterpart holding an M16. The latter focuses on Israel’s physical survival, the former on its spiritual continuity. And just as you can’t have a body without a soul, you can’t have an army that doesn’t have a spiritual reason to fight.

 

 

Tzitz, tefillin, and the halachic process

Recent weeks have seen much discussion about the permissibility of women wearing tefillin.

Although I do not question the sincerity of the parties involved, and maintain high regard for the individuals involved, I see this as an opportunity to reflect on the unique mitzvah of tefillin and on maintaining the integrity of the halachic process. In addition to the specific halachic question involved, this controversy also raises the broader question of how halachah functions, and I would like to provide some perspective on both of these issues.

 

 

Ask the right questions

With the arrival and maturation of my generation, the Millenials, the question “Who is a Jew?” is rather passé.

Forget the halachic dimensions to this endlessly debatable topic. Forget all the moralizing arguments over the issue. Forget the demographically induced paranoia, the post-Holocaust hand-wringing, the Israeli legal maneuvering (not to mention the pandering that comes with it), and the denominational infighting. And — for heaven’s sake! — forget the Pew study.

The fact is that “Who is a Jew?” is the wrong question. To maintain our relevance — to regain it, really — the question we must ask today is “Why be Jewish?”

 

 

 

 
 
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