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Opinion: Letters
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Too open to be Orthodox

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Avram Mlotek, a third year student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, writes movingly about his efforts to prepare for a career of service to the Jewish community (“Time for Torah: The open Orthodox revolution,” November 15). However, he bemoans the fact that his yeshiva has attracted so much attention — and criticism — recently when he writes, “Is it our hashkafa, our ideological values?”

He neglects to inform your readers of the positions that have been articulated by leading individuals associated with his yeshiva and the open Orthodox movement — to wit, the rejection of the historicity of Ma’amad Har Sinai (the giving of the Torah at Sinai) and the claim that the biblical Abraham and Sarah never existed.

The modern Orthodox community has been straining to maintain the inclusive “big tent” during a period of Jewish history that finds the non-Orthodox Jews in America disappearing. Tragically, the open Orthodox, who trumpet their inclusiveness, are turning their backs on the mesorah, tradition, and the fundamental beliefs that underlie and define Orthodoxy. They are rejecting Orthodoxy in every way but in name.

It is imperative that Avram Mlotek and his fellow students confront their leadership to declare that open does not stand for rejection and is not just a cover for neo-Conservative Judaism.

 

Israel Polak
Teaneck
 
 

Discretion, not passion

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Dr. Alex Sinclair is undoubtedly correct that there are things that diaspora Jewry and Israeli Jewry can learn from each other (“Space for critiques of Israel opens essential two-way street,” November 8). But in the wake of the Pew Research survey report on American Jews, perhaps Dr. Sinclair could have been more modest in his assessment of his own community when he writes that “Israeli Jews need to be exposed to the remarkable, inspiring experience of American Judaism.”

Dr. Sinclair’s lack of humility is even more disturbing when it comes to his view that diaspora Jews ought to be encouraged to develop a “passionate, angry, caring critique” of Israel’s attitude in peace talks with the Palestinians. Yes, we have First Amendment rights to express our views. I am not advocating censorship of Jews, or anyone else, who criticize Israeli foreign policy and security policy. That is their right. But our sisters and brothers in the land of Israel live in a perilous region during an extremely threatening time. Their lives are on the line. It is easy for us to criticize, but they must live — or die — with the consequences of their decisions. Their children, not ours, must go into battle to defend their lives. Given these obvious facts, it would be better for those of us who truly care to exhibit more discretion and more modesty before we decide to vocally critique Israel’s security and foreign policy decisions with passion or anger.

 

Harold Weissler
Teaneck
 
 

How kosher is glatt?

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I would like to open a forum here for a discussion on the concept of “glatt” kosher meat. A common misconception is that the term glatt refers to a higher standard. In fact, “glatt” means “smooth” in Yiddish, and refers to the absence of adhesions on an animal’s lungs. If there are no adhesions the meat is glatt kosher. If there are, the meat is still perfectly kosher ( at least for Ashkenazim), it is just not glatt.

For the past few decades the Orthodox community has seemingly taken upon itself the chumra , or stringency, of eating only glatt kosher meat. This has resulted in higher prices for glatt kosher meat and the apparent disappearance of all other kosher but not glatt meat. It is almost impossible today to purchase red meat that is not glatt, from butchers, restaurants, or markets.

This brings up several important issues. From just about all sources it appears that only about 1 in 20 animals slaughtered actually are glatt. That is 5 percent. This means that it is virtually impossible for all but a small percentage of meat that is sold as glatt to actually be glatt. It’s been said that there are not enough glatt kosher cows slaughtered in the entire world to account for the meat sold as glatt in Brooklyn alone.

So, question #1: How do we account for the vast amount of meat that is marketed as glatt but obviously cannot be glatt?

Question #2: What happens to 95 percent of the meat that is not glatt but nevertheless is kosher? Since it is all but impossible to purchase this meat, and it is unlikely that it is discarded or sold as treif, or unkosher, it seems to have just disappeared.

Question #3: Why has the Orthodox community taken this stringency upon itself, since it has resulted in higher prices, divisiveness, and apparent mischief, if not outright fraud? If someone eats only glatt kosher rather than ordinary kosher, does God give that person some kind of extra credit? Does it cause some higher level of kedusha (holiness) or a better spirituality or a better result in the afterlife? Does it make you a better person or a better Jew?

Is it worth the communal problems that have resulted, including not being able to eat in the home of someone who doesn’t eat only glatt, or the higher prices foisted upon the community, causing some to give up keeping kosher, or the mysterious goings-on in the kosher meat business?

I would love somehow to be able to purchase plain ol’ kosher meat and to serve it to my fellow Orthodox compatriots, and to see a rational, unemotional discussion of these issues.

 

Jeff Bernstein
New Milford
 
 

Ugly reactions

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I am greatly disturbed by some of the comments in NJ.com that followed the announcement of Valley Chabad’s plans to develop the Galaxy Gardens in Woodcliff Lake. They clearly indicate the presence of xenophobia.

1) “You have to keep both eyes open when dealing with these people. They pulled a similar scheme off in Randolph — with one of their “BS” chabads. They have probably already “convinced” ($$$) the local planning board of the benefits of their plan. The property should be immediately fenced off and posted “no trespassing” as they will come in and just do what they want to—.”

2) “This will be a crowd exceeding more than a few thousand, I will bet this group tends to produce very large families.”

3) “Careful, all of the taxes (that) they saved in Lakewood will be used to buy your entire town.”

4) “It sickens me how these ‘religious’ groups can take up entire towns, city blocks, pay zero taxes and serve only their own — and exclude others.”

These ugly statements serve only to arouse fear and hostility. They are xenophobic and should have no place in fair debate.

 

Dr. Jerrold Terdiman
Woodcliff Lake
 
 

Remember Kristallnacht

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I read the Jewish Standard every week to find out about all the events taking place. Therefore, I am very disappointed and upset that so few synagogues in Bergen County have a commemorative service for Kristallnacht. I was born in Berlin and remember November 9, 1938, very vividly.

I will never forget it.

I am a former member of Beth Tikvah/New Milford Jewish Center; we had a commemorative service every year.

Are we already forgetting what happened in our lifetime?

 

Ellen Gerber
River Edge
 
 

Freedom for Pollard

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I applaud your November 1 editorial about Jonathan Pollard (“Hypocrisy comes in from the cold”). Unfortunately, I suspect that the editorial will do nothing to secure his freedom, just as the letters that I and many others have composed have had no effect.

What we need is for Jewish organizations to come together to organize mass demonstrations in Washington, week after week. It is a disgrace that we, members of the Jewish community, who believe that “If you save one person you save the world,” apparently do not ascribe to that idea when it comes to Mr. Pollard. Perhaps people should think how they would feel about the reaction of the Jewish community if they or a loved one were in Mr. Pollard’s shoes.

Furthermore, the juxtaposition of your comments about Mr. Pollard with your “Setting murderers free, part two” (November 1) is very telling. It is obvious that we cannot rely on Israel to fight on Mr. Pollard’s behalf. It is hard to believe that 104 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom have killed, maimed, and injured Jews, are released from prison, but one Jew, a spy for Israel, cannot be release as part of the deal, after 28 years in solitary confinement.

I fear that the world laughs at us, while God cries.

 

Chuck Levner
Bergenfield
 
 

More on Pollard

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I wish to commend you for your November 1 editorial on the hypocrisy of keeping Jonathan Pollard in jail for 28 years for spying for a friendly nation, when we have treated spies convicted of aiding our enemies with lighter prison sentences. Our country is constantly spying against our enemies, as well as our allies, just as these nations are spying against us. It is clear to me and should be clear to the entire Jewish community that the only reason that Pollard is being treated this way is because of anti-Semitism.

 

Seymour Berkowitz
Dumont
 
 

Where is God on Mitzvah Day?

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How sad that after all these years, Mitzvah Day in Bergen County, sponsored by the Federation of Northern New Jersey, joined by dozens of synagogues and Jewish schools, continues to be a day of social action only (“Be part of Mitzvah Day,” November 1). The word mitzvah means any commandment from God, whether ethical or ritual. Why define it, then, as simply meaning good deeds?

At a time of massive assimilation and intermarriage, it behooves all of our Jewish organizations to have both kinds of mitzvos available to the thousands of Jewish adults, teens, and children involved. This means we should be encouraging the purchase of mezuzahs at discount, the giving of inexpensive Shabbat candelabras with candles, the donning of t’fillin and perhaps discount coupons to kosher supermarkets in an attempt to increase kashrut observance.

If Judaism continues to be a concentration on only ethical moral values, to the majority of Jews then we will continue to lose to assimilatory forces.

 

Martin Polack
Teaneck
 
 
 
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