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Sunday, December 15, 2019

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Addressing the Financial Impact of Terror

As president of Keren HaTzadik USA, founded in memory of Rabbi Aryeh Levine zt”l, I am in regular contact with the volunteer director of Keren HaTzadik in Israel. Here is what he has said recently:

“We feel abandoned by the American Jews. I have one small question: Is anyone paying attention that there has been at least one terror attack daily?

“Due to the current wave of terror, hundreds of families are suffering economically because people are afraid to leave home, to go to work and to go shopping. Large numbers of students who have paid tuition are not attending classes. These people are not earning, many businesses are not earning. These frightened people will venture out only when they have nothing left to eat. And, lacking funds, they come to Keren HaTzadik for food. Keren HaTzadik needs extra funds to support this new wave of families who have never been hungry before.”

Do we care? Most certainly, but, how do we care—and how much? Do we check the news from Israel and click to the next topic? Are we willing to be okay with a “tolerable level of terror”? Is the plight of our brothers and sisters on our minds throughout the day?

Personally, I yearn to see our communal and personal prayers reflect our concern. When daily prayers are said passionately for the safety of every Jew in Israel and everywhere in the world, I feel a greater sense of connection. Reciting a psalm with feeling at the end of shul davening can strengthen the belief that our prayers indeed have the power to affect events thousands of miles away. I am reminded of the severity of the “situation” when the parting greeting from the gabbai or a friend is “shenishma besorot tovot—may we hear good news today,” or “please give support and encouragement to people living in Israel,” instead of just “have a nice day.”

Next, I ask myself: How can we show our brothers and sisters in Israel that we care? Certainly, we can call and visit our Israeli family and friends. And we can translate our caring into financial support for the individuals and institutions that strengthen the settlement of the Land of Israel with purchases, investments and donations.

In 2005, the Teaneck community initiated its support for Keren HaTzadik by raising money for the families expelled from Gush Katif. Since then, Keren HaTzadik has sought to “help all need,” as modeled for us by the saintly Rabbi Aryeh Levine zt”l.

Now, especially during this threatening crisis, please partner with Keren HaTzadik and other worthy organizations that are caring for our distressed brothers and sisters in Israel.

To donate to Keren HaTzadik, please send your tax-deductible contribution to KEREN HaTAZDIK c/o Yasgur, 992 Richard Court, Teaneck NJ 07666 or log on to your PayPal account and send to [email protected]

With our heartfelt prayers, our love and concern, and with our checkbooks, we can make a difference.

Shenishma besorot tovot!

Rabbi Moshe Jordan Yasgur

President/ Keren HaTzadik USA

A Response to Rabbi Dov Fischer

Rabbi Dov Fischer’s article purports to applaud the Rabbinical Council of America’s recent affirmation of its policy prohibiting the ordination “of women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used,” and hiring of such women by Orthodox institutions (“Bucking the Social Trends of Other Religions, RCA Affirms Women’s Greatest Power,” December 3, 2015). His column, however, spends much of its time attacking and insulting Reform and Conservative Judaism with unfounded and perverse argumentation, and also contains numerous inaccuracies. I will suffice here with three responses, though many more deserve detailed rebuttal.

(1) Rabbi Fischer characterizes the Reform and Conservative Movement as misogynistic because it took them until 1972 and 1985 respectively to ordain women. In his words, “it fairly and honestly can be said that the centuries-long refusals of Reform and Conservative to ordain women stemmed fundamentally from misogyny.” So we are to understand that the Reform and Conservative movements, which ordain women as rabbis, encourage women to read Torah and Haftarah, and promote egalitarian services, are misogynistic. But the RCA, which affirms a ban on the ordination of women, and which likewise prohibits women from reading Torah or leading services, not to mention the mechitzah—is not misogynistic?! Why not? Because the RCA bases its decision on Mesorah and halacha, in contrast to the other movements (a charge that many adherents of those movements would vociferously reject). This attempt at a “reversal of values” is not too far from a Southern slaveholder saying to an abolitionist from New York in 1850: “You New Yorkers, who freed your slaves only in 1827, are racist, since you allowed slavery for centuries before that, and now concede that blacks and whites are equal. But we, who continue to practice slavery, are not racist, because we have no intention of abolishing slavery, as our God-given tradition and law rejects the equality of the races.”

Rabbi Fischer’s basic argument that the RCA and Orthodoxy in general are immune to the charge of misogyny because their policies are based on “Mesorah and halacha” is problematic at best and downright pernicious at worst. South Africa justified apartheid based on their understanding of biblical tradition and law. There is ample Islamic tradition and law that pagans be given a choice of death or conversion to Islam—as we see today in ISIL’s treatment of the Yazidi religion. No one would say such policies are not racist and not inhumane just because they are based on tradition and law. So, too, in this case.

(2) Rabbi Fischer attempts to argue for the high status of, and respect for, women “within halachic Judaism” on the grounds that “women are uniquely endowed with defining family purity.” He offers a dialogue in which the husband asks his wife when she went to the mikveh and trusts her answers with this weighty commandment. “Family purity” is actually a euphemism of sorts for “family impurity” or “menstrual impurity,” though Rabbi Fischer avoids the words “menstruation” and niddah throughout. That today women, not men, are sources of impurity for halachic purposes is considered by many as rooted in misogyny—the Biblical laws of sexual impurity of men are happily no longer practiced today. And when that same woman in Rabbi Fischer’s hypothetical dialogue has a question about her bleeding, say if she spots or stains her undergarment at certain points in her cycle, she will have to ask a halachic question about her impurity status. Who will she ask? A rabbi, a…. man! The male rabbi, the halachic expert, and not the woman, in fact has ultimate authority over “family (im)purity.”

(3) Rabbi Fischer charges that the Conservative and Reform movements ordained women due to the influence of Christian denominations that first began to ordain women as clergy. His whole discussion, however, shows a complete misunderstanding of this historical development. In fact, both Judaism and Christianity were influenced by ideas about the equality of the sexes that originated in the 18th-century European Enlightenment (fundamentally an anti-Christian intellectual movement) and became social forces when women were pressed into entering the workforce in great numbers due to WWII.

Let Rabbi Fischer be proud of the RCA’s commitment to Mesorah and halacha. It is unnecessary and shameful to promote one’s own beliefs by denigrating and insulting others.

Jeffrey Rubenstein

Professor, Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University

Tenafly

We Should Rush to Save Christian Refugees From the Middle East

Note from Dr. Alex Rashin: This letter provides a correct title and the lost content of the last paragraph of my letter in the December 3, 2015 issue of the Jewish Link.

Except Cruz and Bush, all Republican candidates support complete ban on asylum in the U.S., suggesting, unrealistic in the time of war, “safe zones” for refugees in Syria. Cruz and Bush suggested to admit only Christian refugees as unlikely terrorists, but failed to explain how their identities could be verified, while this can be easy for Christians in contrast to Muslims. Most Middle Eastern Christians live in close-knit communities attending their churches for generations and knowing well the service in those churches. It would be difficult for a Muslim to simulate such knowledge. Refugees from such communities know each other well and can confirm information about each other. Religious leaders of such communities can be a very rich source of information on members of their churches. Except for rare cases of relatives kept as ISIS hostages (also verifiable by other community members), Christians would not support terrorists. Apparently, Cruz and Bush were not deeply involved with their churches to give a proper answer. Some Christian leaders and organizations helped save Jews during the Holocaust and support Israel now. In the Middle East, Christians are marked for genocide. We cannot let it happen—after the shameful U.S. inaction during the Holocaust.

There is a humanitarian nonprofit in San-Diego (http://minorityhf.org) with lists of tens of thousands of minority refugees and American sponsors for each. However, its plight and even the bill, introduced by San-Diego congressmen, were ignored by the official Washington (see the website; I talked with minorityhf) leaders. Arguments about special urgent vetting opportunities for such refugees and the moral U.S. obligation to save them should be pushed forward by presidential candidates, media and major Jewish and Christian organizations.

Dr. Alex Rashin

Teaneck