Irony In History
The message that the Arabs were victims of Zionism is a theme that is repeated again and again in different ways and is absorbed by many.
It is through an unusual source that we can get a glimpse of a historical reality that is rarely published today. The PLO’s official magazine, Al Thura, published in March 1976, has the following:
“The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians . . . but, instead they abandoned them . . . forced them to emigrate . . . imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews lived in Europe.”
The irony is that the author of these insights was Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.
The Yarmulke Factor
Regarding your article “The Yarmulke Factor” (May 9), it should be noted that my father, Howard L. Lasher, z’l, was the first Orthodox politician to be elected to, and serve in, the New York State legislature. My father was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1972 (Sheldon Silver was elected in 1976 and Dov Hikind in 1983). He represented the 46th District in Brooklyn for 21 years until 1994, and thereafter represented the 47th District in the New York City Council until 2001. Both of his districts had a strong Jewish, though not particularly Orthodox, population. My father always wore his yarmulke. He ran his first election while wearing his yarmulke, was sworn in wearing his yarmulke, and displayed it on his head at all political events as well as at each and every legislative session and committee meeting.
It never occurred to my father to be less conspicuously Jewish by taking off his yarmulke. He knew who he was and was proud of it. He was proud to be a Jew, and proud to be an American. He extended the same tolerance to others that he expected from them. Although my father did much for the Jewish community, including introducing legislation to protect the kosher consumer and working to help free Soviet Jews, he believed that he was elected to serve all of his constituents, including his beloved seniors. The fact that he was reelected time and again proves that to his constituents it didn’t matter if he looked like the Orthodox Jew that he was, just that he was an effective advocate for their interests.
My father’s visible identification as an Orthodox Jew was undoubtedly a kiddush Hashem. While wearing his yarmulke, my father always acted honestly, was never tainted by even a whiff of scandal, and energetically served all of his constituents, regardless of their religious affiliation. My father served as an excellent example for my family and the community at large by teaching us to be proud of who we are and, as he liked to say, “to always doing the right thing.” We would be a well-served electorate if our political candidates and elected officials would model his behavior.
Lisa S. Lasher Abittan
Ticket To March
I’d like to rebut a letter to the editor in the May 8, 2014 issue of 5TJT. The letter sought increased support in the frum community to oppose the participation of a gay Jewish group (JQY) in the upcoming Salute to Israel Parade, either by persuading parade organizers to ban the group or by withdrawing yeshivas and other Orthodox groups from the parade. The writer called allowing this group to march “a much greater threat to Israel” than permitting groups who actively work against Medinat Yisrael to march in the parade (the subject of much recent debate within the Jewish community).
Let me stake out the context in which I offer my rebuttal. I don’t believe in “gay marriage.” The word “marriage” inherently means a union between a man and a woman. “Gay marriage” is about as accurate a term as “male pregnancy.” No amount of political correctness can change basic biological facts. In addition, I agree completely with the writer that homosexuality is forbidden by the Torah. Some equivocate on whether it is or is not, but a reading of the two relevant verses in the Chumash proves the prohibition is explicit and emphatic. Finally, before reading his letter I never heard of JQY.
Yet I cannot bring myself to agree with his proposal to ban them from the parade. The criterion for participation should be nothing more than, “Does your group support a strong, vibrant, Jewish state?” If they do, let them in. If they don’t, keep them out. Very happily, the parade includes Jewish groups with disparate religious, political, and social viewpoints on various issues, and even non-Jewish groups. The one unifying and important thing for all of them is their support of Israel. If JQY meets the criterion, they’re entitled to march. Like I wrote earlier, I don’t know JQY, but I’ve never seen them mentioned among the so-called Jewish groups who should be barred from the event because they work actively to further the aims of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinians to destroy Israel. Until I hear differently on that issue, JQY gets the benefit of my doubt.
I must conclude the writer didn’t mean JQY is a threat to Israel the way those who work with our enemies are, but instead a threat in a religious context. That’s a different kettle of fish and may well be valid in a narrower context, but we need to remember it’s the Salute to Israel Parade, not the Orthodox Salute to Israel Parade. There are no religious criteria for participation. If it becomes the Orthodox Salute to Israel Parade, then JQY can be banned. If so, Conservative and Reform Jewish organizations that currently participate can also be banned since, in the view of some segments of Orthodoxy, they are also “threats to Israel” in the sense the writer apparently meant. This is the slippery slope that he proposes people start going down. After such a Senator-Joe-McCarthy-like exercise, good luck with whatever shreds of a parade you have left! Also consider that the factional infighting among Jews resulting from such divisive action will be much more of a threat to Klal Yisrael (from both religious and historical precedents) than a little-known group of young people with a different social [sexual] orientation marching in the parade. Would you hand sonei Yisrael, who are the real threats to not only the State of Israel but to Jews worldwide, such easy and effortless victories over us?
One additional thought. The U.S. only recently stopped the practice of kicking people who openly admitted to being gay out of its military services. In contrast, I’m not sure Israel has ever questioned the social orientation of those serving in its military. Of the approximately 23,000 killed and thousands more wounded defending Israel since 1948, who can say there weren’t any gays among them? Whatever one thinks of JQY on religious grounds, those sacrifices more than paid for their “ticket” to march.
A Timely Lesson
It was 6:50 this past Friday afternoon when I got a flat tire. I was delayed leaving Brooklyn to Far Rockaway. My calculation of being home by 7:15 went out the window. It was too late for any family member to pick me up. I tried calling Geico, but after 10 minutes, they told me it would take an hour for help to arrive. (I didn’t try Chaverim.) I tried two cab companies, but there were no cars available. I offered to pay double the fare, and still couldn’t get a car.
I decided to try to hitch a ride, walking down Flatbush Avenue, hoping some frum people heading my way would pick me up, but it was too late for that too.
I put on my baseball cap and ran across Flatbush Avenue around 7:20 to the Lobster Restaurant to see if I could find a ride there. A lady working there tried a cab company, but there was an hour wait.
I asked people if they were heading in that direction, offering to pay to go to Far Rockaway. I imagine that I looked like a crazed individual begging people for a lift. With no one offering, I ran outside again to see if any cabs were coming, but no luck.
I ran back into the restaurant, close to 7:30, again offering to pay people to get back to Far Rockaway. A gentleman came out of the side room, where he was setting up for an event. I told him that I’ll pay him for a ride if he is heading to Far Rockaway.
He looks at me and says, “Shabbos?” I was shocked and said yes.
He tells me that he will take me!
We go to his car, and he explains to me that he is an electrician (among other businesses he is involved in), an Italian Catholic, who grew up on the Lower East Side. He learned his trade under Orthodox Jews and has had many favorable dealings with Orthodox Jews (he singled out Boro Park) over the years. I thanked him many times over during the ride. He wouldn’t take any money! He even understood that he needed to carry my belongings into my house, because we would be arriving at my house 3 minutes after sunset.
I made it for Ashrei and davened tefillah b’tzibbur at a shtiebel too!
The driver’s name is Michael Canisso. (I doubt I’m spelling it right) and he went an hour out of his way to help a Jew he never met, because of favorable dealings with Orthodox Jews. I owe him a tremendous amount of gratitude.
Obviously, it was chasdei Hashem Yisbarach that brought me home. And I learned a huge lesson about not treating Shabbos Kodesh lightly. I was very wrong to leave to go home so late.
I also owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to frum yidden I never even met. Because they made a Kiddush Hashem in their dealings with Mike Canisso, I benefitted.
So besides the lesson of not treating Shabbos Kodesh lightly, I learned that the Kiddush Hashem we make in the outside world has effects we may never know about. (And rachmana litzlan, it can go the other way.) I hope this event in my life can help inspire others in the matters of Shabbos Kodesh and our dealings with the outside world.
Everyone Take Action
I am writing in response to Rabbi Ginzberg’s article in last week’s paper, “The Gezeirah Ra’ah Upon Us.” I was extremely inspired by Rabbi Ginzberg’s moving words, encouraging every individual to take a role in helping the shidduch situation. It seems as though we may have been on the same wavelength, as just last week, before I saw the article, I started a new shidduch initiative called ETA–Everyone Take Action. The goal of this program is to encourage action in the Jewish community in the area of shidduchim. The first program we have launched is a mentoring program, pairing young married women with single girls to help with all aspects of shidduchim, including setting them up with boys, résumé writing, networking with shadchanim, and calling references. We have already received an overwhelming number of responses and hope that this program will succeed in achieving its purpose—to provide a support system for girls in shidduchim. Anyone interested in more information or in signing up for the mentoring program (either as a mentor or a girl in shidduchim) should please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Our Aliyah Chronicle” article in last week’s edition of the Five Towns Jewish Times called into question the motives and direction of my organization. I would like to address the points raised in the article to help your readers understand what transpired with more clarity.
Standing Together (http://www.stogether.org) is an Israeli non-profit that brings complimentary food and drinks, as well as warm winter gear and foam pillows to soldiers on duty—anything we can to make their national service easier. When our soldiers are called up to defend Israel against attacks by our enemies—as they were in Lebanon and in Operation Cast Lead—our hospitality trailer shuttled back and forth nonstop to army staging areas, bringing items such as clean socks, toiletries, and a generator to recharge cell phones. In this way, we let the soldiers know that people throughout the world love them, support them, and wish them a safe and successful mission.
Although we are a small organization, we’ve always prided ourselves on using 100% of the money donated to a specific campaign or event directly for that cause, whether it’s for cold drinks in the summer, warm clothing in the winter, or barbecues on Yom HaAtzmaut. Consequently, money used for our regular activities and administration must come from general donations made throughout the year.
In past years, Standing Together has asked for a supplement of NIS 100 from each family who comes with us on Yom HaAtzmaut. This donation was meant to defray the cost of the food for the soldiers as well as the volunteers. To be candid, it didn’t. NIS 100 was a good deal for families who wanted to spend a day out with soldiers, but cost overruns cut into our annual operating budget. This year, we asked that our volunteers also become members of Standing Together by donating NIS 36 per month for one year, which amounts to less than $0.35 a day. As in past years, we also asked that volunteers enhance the barbecue by bringing pantry items such as chips, pickles, and condiments, as well as portable grills and charcoal. The set fee of “500%+” insinuated by the author is simply incorrect.
It had also been suggested that the organization acted “in a way that they knew would shrink, rather than expand, the sphere of their activities.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. While the annual Yom HaAtzmaut barbecues we coordinate certainly improve the morale of soldiers required to remain on base, the monthly donations that we now receive will help us with our mission to reach more soldiers throughout the entire year. And, the 250 volunteers who accompanied us prepared over three thousand meals for soldiers who otherwise would have had standard army food for lunch.
Standing Together has always been appreciative of the support from donors in the Five Towns and throughout the world. We decided that now was the time to ask our volunteers in Israel to become donors in order to help shoulder the cost, and we thought that the NIS 1.20 a day that we requested was within reason. We’re deeply grateful to the many families who enthusiastically helped us make this Yom HaAtzmaut a success. Now, and for the rest of the year, whenever we visit soldiers, our members share in the hakarat hatov we give to the soldiers for their brave and selfless service.
We regret that volunteers who joined us in the past were compelled to forgo joining Standing Together for Yom HaAtzmaut, and we sincerely hope everyone can once again join us in the future. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite your readers to become members of Standing Together and help us continue to support the men and women who protect and defend Eretz Yisrael.
Founder, Standing Together