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Monday, August 19, 2019

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Politicians Who Offer Prayers Are ‘Sorry Hypocrites’

Your December 10 editorial (“If God Isn’t Fixing This, Who Is?”) left me scratching my head. The “God Isn’t Fixing This” headline in the New York Daily News was certainly dramatic, perhaps overly dramatic, but the point behind it was rather mundane and clear. It was certainly not a criticism of prayer, as your editorial bizarrely seems to induce. Rather, it was a criticism of politicians who issue prayers and sympathies to the victims of gun violence while simultaneously blocking any rational policies that would reduce gun violence. The point was that these politicians are nothing but sorry hypocrites, and their prayers and sympathies are empty and insulting.

This point did not escape you entirely, because your editorial offers the strange rationalization that the San Bernardino killers would have found a way to commit this crime anyway, gun laws or no gun laws. But this is nothing but misplaced fatalism. More rational gun laws would not eliminate every mass shooting, but they would make it harder, much harder, for malevolent individuals to assemble the kinds of arsenals that make these crimes so devastating. Tougher gun laws would also make it much more likely that an individual trying to acquire the means to commit such a crime will expose themselves to detection by law enforcement long before their plans reach maturity.

Rational gun control policies could be enacted right now and start saving lives today, just as they do in other advanced countries. So when politicians of either party say to devastated families, “We pray for you, but there’s nothing we could have done to stop this,”” it’s a lie and it’s a disgrace.

David Fass

Teaneck, NJ

The Editors respond:

Dear Mr. Fass,

In our editorial, we indicated that to say “thoughts and prayers” aren’t helpful in such a context are not in line with what we believe in as Jews. We did not say that “thoughts and prayers” is the only thing that should be done in these types of situations. Our country and much of the world is at war with Islamic extremism, and making strides forward every day to tighten laws that will prevent arms and other dangerous weapons of many types from getting into the hands of those who would do us ill; we don’t see anywhere where a politician said, “We pray for you, but there’s nothing we could have done to stop this.”

We also stated quite clearly that we don’t think tougher gun laws will prevent these types of terrorist acts. This is not ‘misplaced fatalism;’ this is fact. The San Bernardino killers began amassing their firearms legally four years ago. They sailed through background checks, had their gun permits all in order, and certainly were clever enough to have jumped through whatever other hoops became necessary. They were willing to wait, and willing to hide their jihadism until they already were discharging the firearms.

Sincerely,

The Editors

Paterson Torahs
Continue Family
Connections

I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent articles about the re-dedication of the old Yavneh Sifrei Torah in Paterson and their connection to my family.

It has always been a source of “Jersey pride” that my family has been part of the northern New Jersey Jewish community for over a century, since 1913! We recently celebrated the 100th birthday of my grandmother, Goldie Sussman (misidentified in the print edition as my aunt in last week’s issue). One of the Sifrei Torah was dedicated by her mother in memory of her father upon his death in 1953. It was donated to Yavneh Academy, which in addition to serving as the school of my father and his siblings, was also the shul that they davened at. After Yavneh moved to Paramus in the early 1980s, the Torah was given to the Federation, and my grandmother is thrilled to know that the Sefer Torah is still being used. As a Yavneh graduate (and current Yavneh teacher) myself, the continued use of this old Yavneh Torah is truly exciting for me as well. I am so grateful to Jerry Schranz for the tremendous amount of work he has done to keep this Sefer Torah alive, and to link the generations of my family.

Chaim Sussman

Teaneck