By Larry Gordon
Frankly I don’t get it. Planeloads of chareidim who reside mostly in Jerusalem planned on arriving in New York this week to demonstrate against the government of Israel for wanting to institute some drastic changes. Amongst those changes are introducing the teaching of English and math in their yeshivos, thereby educating the population, which will allow them to become employable. And then there is the much more sensitive matter of young chareidim being conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces or, as an alternative, performing some version of national service.
These are great minds and great leaders at work here and we have nothing but maximum respect for them and their decisions. But what was this about? The last idea was to set up a larger-than-life tent in Edison, New Jersey in which the masses were to gather. That idea came to fruition after the idea was nixed to set up the rally, demonstration, or protest at the mostly unused Floyd Bennett Field at the end of Flatbush Avenue, just a few hundred yards from the Marine Parkway Bridge, better known for its Aviator ice rink, gym, and giant gaming arcade.
Frankly, though, I could not understand the plan. I had been excited about the close proximity to the Brooklyn event and the ease with which I could have had access to the site. I can tell you with certainty that I was not going to spend the day traveling to Edison, though it is a beautiful and wonderful Jewish community.
Before the event was finally canceled earlier this week, I was asking around whether it is sanctioned by Jewish law to desecrate G-d’s name in order to effectuate what you may believe is an effort to sanctify Him and His ways. I am certain that—from the perspective of the chareidi communities in Israel and that of their leaders—the situation was not seen that way at the outset, but then very quickly the thinking was reversed and the plan scrapped and we are all better off for that.
Perhaps the greatest irony present in this new chareidi-versus-the-Israel-establishment equation is that just about all of those advocating for the rights of chareidim to live in Israel in the throes of dire poverty are, for the most part, very comfortable. The chareidi Knesset members like Meir Porush, Moshe Gafni, and others are all earning 30,000 Shekel per month; that’s $2,142 per week by the American standard. These are just their salaries; most of their office expenses, cars, phones, and so on are also paid for by the government. But they insist that it is a right of the yeshiva community in Israel to live poor. Are you okay with that?
A New Mayor In NYC
Bill de Blasio is the new mayor of New York City. Whether he can do all he has promised in turning the city into a reflection of his own political image remains to be seen. After twelve years of the pragmatism of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which were preceded by eight years of the indomitable Rudy Giuliani, New Yorkers apparently believed it was not just time for a change but for flipping things over on their heads.
Why would New Yorkers do such a reverse, suddenly shifting in the direction of hopeless and senseless Obama-like liberalism? Well, one explanation may be that a great deal of the city’s voters just do not know any better. It’s been 20-plus years since David Dinkins wreaked havoc in the city. That’s two decades since the last time that over 2,200 people were murdered over one 12-month period on the streets of New York. Either people don’t remember or they just miss those good old days.
So, if you prefer, you can call it retro, vintage, or a political version of antiquing, but that is exactly what we seem to be dealing with here. On the one hand, Mr. de Blasio has reached back and selected a successful police commissioner from Giuliani’s term—William Bratton. Yet in many other ways, this new mayor can’t wait to erase whatever New York City accomplished over the last 20 years through the Bloomberg and Giuliani years. On New Year’s Day, De Blasio was sworn into office on the steps of City Hall by former President Bill Clinton, and you can rest assured that Mayor Dinkins was there beaming at the spectacle he was observing.
So what does the new mayor want? Well, he seems to echo the same sentiments as President Obama. Give everyone a fair chance and bring some balance into the economy by exacting new taxes—or call them “fees,” “charges,” or, if you have to, “insurance premiums”—so that the money that gets earned in inordinate amounts at the top finds its way flowing down.
We are not talking about opportunity or academic advancement, just plain old, “give me the money.” I think that it has been proven in the past not to be a workable or effective process and Mr. Obama has demonstrated much the same over the last five years. Sure, it may be cynical, but this is the political reality. This Democratic philosophy is rooted in the theory of vote getting. If you are responsible for redistributing enough income to a few million people, those very same people are going to vote for you again and again.
It makes political, but not economic, sense. As we enter 2014, Democrats in Congress are preparing to distance themselves and run for reelection as far away from Barack Obama as possible. And it’s not because of his wonderful progressive programs or policies. It is because of his lack of integrity and straight-ahead deception on so many issues. Right now, Bill de Blasio believes he has a mandate from New Yorkers to return the city to the Dinkins era of the 1990s. Time for another lesson learned the hard way.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered at Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence to demonstrate support for Devorah Schochet of Woodmere who is in the throes of a battle with ALS—Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The event was an outpouring of support on multiple levels for Devorah and her family. The medical industry is still searching or a cure for ALS, which slowly paralyzes its victims. Her friends and neighbors organized an outstanding event that showed, on many levels, the extent of the care and concern for the Schochet family and their needs.
One of the organizers told me that a schedule has been drawn up amongst her friends, neighbors, and family that has everything she needs covered around the clock. Devorah is never alone or never has to search around for someone to help with this or that chore or need. Whether it is something at home or something that needs to be shopped for, her family and friends are there to make it happen.
It is an uphill climb and a debilitating challenge, and the community is rising to the occasion, whether it is raising money for medical treatments that may work or doing simple everyday things. Unfortunately, the family is all too well aware of what is involved in this battle, as Devorah’s mother also suffered from ALS.
In the meantime, the community is mobilized in a most magnificent way, beseeching the Heavens for mercy and a refuah sheleimah for Devorah Rochel bas Miriam Chava. May she receive the miracle cure that she needs. v
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